What to Know
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk says he has the go-ahead to build a Hyperloop system connecting NY to DC
The Hyperloop, an electromagnetic tube system, would transport people from city to city in 29 minutes
Musk first proposed the idea of an intercity Hyperloop in 2013
New York to Washington in 29 minutes? Elon Musk says it's possible and he has the government's approval to do it (though it's anyone's guess how long it would take to build).
"Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins," the billionaire inventor and entrepreneur tweeted Thursday afternoon.
"City center to city center in each case, with up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators in each city," he said in another tweet. The Boring Company is Musk's tunneling venture.
"Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly," Musk said about an hour later. He waited until Friday morning to acknowledge, again via Twitter, that the verbal approval was at the federal level only.
"Still a lot of work before formal, written approval, but this opens door for state & city discussions," he added.
In a statement to News 4 New York on Thursday, a Boring Company spokesperson said the company has had a number of promising conversations with local, state and federal government officials.
"With few exceptions, feedback has been very positive and we have received verbal support from key government decision-makers for tunneling plans, including a Hyperloop route from New York to Washington," the person said, adding the company hopes to "break ground later this year."
Passengers traveling via Hyperloop would board magnetically levitating pods moved by electric propulsion.
The U.S. Department of Transportation referred inquiries about the project to the White House. The Trump administration acknowledged Musk's tweet while not getting into any specifics about a possible project.
"We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector," a White House spokesman said.
Representatives for both the New York City and Washington, D.C. mayors said they were unaware of approvals for the project.
"This is news to City Hall," tweeted Eric Phillips, a spokesman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"This is the first we’ve heard of it, but we can't wait to hear more," said LaToya Foster, spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The D.C. Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to an inquiry. The Federal Transit Administration deferred to the Transportation Department.
In February, Musk tweeted photos from a tunnel in D.C., sparking a flurry of speculation. NBC Washington learned he toured the 2 1/2-mile-long Anacostia River Tunnel and saw the tunnel-boring machine that created it. A spokesman for Musk declined to speak at the time about the purpose of the tour.
Baltimore officials, in statements to local media, said they supported the project and would not stand in its way.
Skeptics wasted no time in challenging Musk on the details of his announcement Thursday, including the BBC's Silicon Valley reporter, who asked whether the CEO was announcing prematurely in a bid to drum up support.
"Support would be much appreciated!" he replied.
In a later response to an inquisitive follower, Musk did say the work on the New York-to-Washington tunnel would run in parallel to an existing project to build tunnels in Los Angeles.
"Then prob LA-SF and a TX loop," he tweeted. He gave no estimate for how long any of these projects would take or what they might cost.
He also indicated that adding Boston and Providence to the NY-DC route would be a "natural extension," and said his company had been approached by Chicago officials about an O'Hare-to-downtown tunnel as well.
Musk is best known for his electric car company Tesla and his space venture SpaceX, as well as co-founding PayPal.
The inventor first proposed the Hyperloop electromagnetic tube system in 2013. Earlier this year the California tech company Hyperloop One unveiled a plan for a NY-to-DC system.
Musk's system appeared to be different from theirs, though.
In April, former D.C. Department of Transportation head Gabe Klein said he thinks Hyperloop will happen.
"I think it's going to become a reality," he said. "I think it may take longer than people think to get through all the right-of-way clearances and the sort of government regulations. But I think we are in for a sea change in terms of long-haul transportation."