Elon Musk was part of a so-called town hall meeting of CEOs and other business leaders at the White House on April 4. The administration is about to propose a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure nationwide and is soliciting ideas from the executives about how to spend all that money.
Gary Cohn is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, recently retired. He is now Trump’s chief economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council. During the meeting, he asked Musk how America can solve its lack of high speed surface transportation. Musk replied, ” ‘OK, I can solve the problem. I can tunnel the whole way.'”
Musk has gotten excited lately about boring tunnels everywhere to solve congestion problems. He is famous for saying he can increase the efficiency of almost everything human beings do. The upcoming Model 3 will be built on an assembly line that Musk says will move ten times faster than any automobile making facility ever has. He calls it “building the machine that makes the machine” and says the lessons he and his team of engineers have learned about putting things together will apply equally well to all manufacturing efforts.
He says reusable rockets will drive down the cost of space travel by a factor of 100 — or more! He says his engineers are taking apart the best tunnel boring machines available today and putting them back together so they can dig ten times faster.
The biggest barrier to infrastructure is finding a place to put it. For highways and train tracks, land has to be acquired and cleared. Sometimes whole neighborhoods are destroyed to make way for the newest new idea in transportation. There are often things in the way. Big things like the Empire State building or the Transamerica tower. What to do? Go underground, Musk says.
“You have tall buildings,” he told Wired in January via a direct message on Twitter. “They’re all 3D, and then everyone wants to go into the building and leave the building at a same time,” he said. “On a 2D road network, that obviously doesn’t work, so you have to go 3D either up or down. And I think probably down.” He envisions a network of tunnels up to 30 levels deep.
What does any of this have to do with Trump’s infrastructure plans? Musk says he could build Hyperloop pathways using underground tunnels, but the Hyperloop is still little more than a gleam in Musk’s eye. Moving people around at near supersonic speeds on a cushion of air is decades if not generations away. Politicians are genetically incapable of thinking much beyond the next election cycle. High speed rail? Maybe. It could be worth it just to avoid the long lines and security hassles at the airport today but the airlines are going to be none too happy about having tax dollars finance the competition.
The biggest problem with Trump’s infrastructure initiative is how to pay for it. Right now, the fake president’s plan, aided and abetted by Congressional Republicans, is stealing money from the school lunch program, public education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the National Endowment For The Arts while doling out massive tax breaks to the 1%. People who can’t afford to leave the house may not have much need for shiny new highways or Mr. Musk’s high tech tunnels.