Sunday, July 23, 2017

Oh, Elon. Building Infrastructure Doesn't Work Like That

Is this … is this really happening?

On Wednesday morning, Elon Musk made a strange announcement on Twitter: His Boring Company (yes, that's what it's called) had received “verbal government approval” to build an underground hyperloop, he said. The maglev-powered train thing would pass through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore before terminating in good old swampy Washington, DC. All in twenty-nine minutes.

It sounded momentous—but “verbal government approval” isn’t a thing. A White House spokesperson said the administration had conducted “positive conversations” with Musk and Boring Company executives, but declined to comment beyond that.

Musk also acknowledged the project has a ways to go. “A verbal yes is obviously not the same as a formal, written yes,” Musk wrote in a Twitter direct message to WIRED. "It will probably take another four to six months to get formal approval, assuming this receives support from the general public.”

Bad news, Elon, my friend: The White House doesn’t have much power when it comes to rubber stamping gigantic, multi-state infrastructure projects.

“It means effectively nothing,” says Adie Tomer, who studies metropolitan infrastructure at the Brookings Institution. “The federal government owns some land, but they don’t own the Northeast corridor land, and they don’t own the right-of-way.” Sure, having presidential backing isn’t bad—but it is far, far from the ballgame.

Even Musk's four- to six-month timeline seriously stretches it. Because here's what it actually takes to get approval to build gigantic, multi-billion dollar, multi-state infrastructure projects in the United States of America:

(Spoiler: Something nearing an act of God.)

by AArian Marshall, Wired |  Read more:
Image: Hyperloop One
[ed. Some people believe God's already in the White House (including it seems, the present occupant).]