If these tunnels were just a bit wider, they'd be more useful.
Elon Musk plans to use his newest company The Boring Company to dig out a set of two new 35-mile long, 12-foot inside diameter subway tunnels. The new loop tunnels would start at 333 Camden Street at Oriole Park in downtown Baltimore Maryland and head south to 55 New York Avenue in Washington DC.
The new set of 12-foot inside diameter loop tunnels would run under the Baltimore Washington Parkway Maryland State Route 295 between downtown Baltimore Maryland and Washington DC for 35 miles.
The 35-mile long new loop tunnel system would dig out 70 miles of new underground tunnels making the loop tunnels one of the longest sets of tunnels in the world. The new loop tunnels will be built for Elon Musk's experimental loop transit system which will have Tesla electric cars driving in the narrow tunnels at 120 miles an hour.
Why Not 17-Feet Wide Though?
Tesla currently plans to build the tunnels with an inside diameter of only 12 feet instead of the 17-foot diameter tunnel standard that the Washington Metro uses for their subway tunnels.
The reason why Tesla should build their tunnels to at least 17 feet across is in case the proposed loop transit system doesn't work out as planned. The new 17-foot wide loop tunnels could then be sold off to the Washington Metro or Baltimore Light Rail system to be converted into regular subway tunnels for trains.
This could be a win-win for the Washington Metro and Tesla's Boring Company.
The Washington Metro would get 9 to 15 billion dollars worth in new tunnel construction for a billion to three billion thanks to Elon Musk's new digging tech.
The 9 to 15 billion dollar costs are based on the costs of the 11.5 miles long Washington Metro Silver line extension costing taxpayers 6.8 billion dollars for an 11.5-mile section of the new mostly elevated subway line.
The benefits to the Boring Company of building the tunnels would be that it would lose the risk of losing money on building the new tunnels in case the loop tech falls through as planned.
This is due to a Washington Metro Subway tunnel being more profitable to sell off than a smaller tunnel for a large water main or electric power lines or telephone cables.
The Possibilities Seem Endless
The loop tunnels could possible become a totally new Metro Line running down the Washington Baltimore Parkway linking downtown Washington DC to downtown Baltimore. This would open up all suburban towns in-between that don't have Metro Transit Service would be getting new service and an easier commute into downtown Baltimore and DC.
The loop tunnels could also possibly support light rail and become a branch line of the Washington Metro system's Purple Line that could let transit users ride from Bethesda Maryland to Baltimore International Airport and on to downtown Baltimore Maryland.
Maryland's only cruise ship terminal in the state would only be a mile from the proposed loop tunnels where they cross under Interstate 95 before going into downtown Baltimore. It could be possible to build a branch line or shift the loop tunnels to run next to the Maryland Cruise Ship Terminal and link the cruise ships into the Washington Metro System.
The current loop tunnels are planned to end at 55 New York Avenue in Washington DC. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station are only two miles away from 55 New York Avenue.
The L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station is where the Washington Metro's Yellow and Green and Orange and Blue lines all meet up with one another. Imagine if the loop tunnel Metro line also met up with its new metro line friends at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station. It could open the possibility that a transit user could arrive at the Baltimore International Airport then visit the National Mall around the Smithsonian National Museum and leave the same day on a cruise ship.
Cincinnati Subway Failure
But if they don't build the tunnels to 17 feet across to match the existing Washington Metro subway system there is another possible outcome that could happen to the loop tunnels. It could open a possible risk that the small specially sized loop tunnels under Washington DC could suffer the same fate as the hundred-year-old abandoned underground Cincinnati subway.
The Cincinnati Subway was originally planned in the 1910s as a 16-mile long mixed underground and above ground subway system that would lead from the City of Cincinnati's suburbs to the downtown area of downtown Cincinnati Ohio.
The City of Cincinnati's above ground Central Avenue was built at the same time as the old Subway tunnels that run under Central Avenue and follows the abandoned subway line. Construction on the Cincinnati Subway started in 1920 using 6 million dollars in city bonds.
The Cincinnati Subway's troubles started in 1919 when World War One caused the prices of steel and concrete and labor to skyrocket which quickly burned through the 6 million dollars in construction funds. Construction on the Cincinnati Subway was abandoned when construction funds ran out in 1925.
The three-mile-long subway tunnels and half-finished abandoned subway stations were simply left underground abandoned under Central Ave waiting for construction to restart. Dreams of finishing the subway ended in 1925 as automobile fever hit Cincinnati and most of the 16 miles of above ground transit right of way was turned into an expressway in the 1960s.
At the time the builders of the subway planned to have custom sized subway cars use the oddly shaped tall and narrow tunnels in the subway. The subway tunnels were not compatible with the city's existing streetcars. This major flaw was the Cincinnati Subway's tunnels were built too small and narrow for the City's existing Streetcars at the time to fit in and reuse the subway tunnels for the existing streetcar system.
If the abandoned Cincinnati Subway had been able to fit the City's existing streetcars inside of it most likely would have changed the outcome of the Cincinnati Subway's fate. If the subway tunnels had been able to fit the existing streetcar system's rail cars. The streetcar based transit companies could have converted the partly finished 16-mile transit line into a fully grade separated streetcar line free from interference from automobile traffic.
Growing automobile traffic in the inner cities in the 1930s and 1940s caused the demise of a lot of streetcar systems due to cars blocking streetcar tracks. The rising car traffic caused the mentality that diesel buses are best at running with automobile traffic.
Cincinnati's old streetcar system, however, could have moved underground into the subway tunnels were diesel buses couldn't go. Also, the subway tunnels and 16 mile right of way would not have been blocked by automobiles.
A 17-Foot Wide Tunnel Is Safer
Another factor why Elon Musk should use a 17 foot inside diameter tunnel instead of a 12 foot inside diameter tunnel is safety. A 17-foot diameter tunnel would also be safer to get in and out of the tunnel in a fire. The current tunnel plans don't have a catwalk running alongside the 12 foot across the tunnel.
But a 17 foot across tunnel built to the Washington Metro standard would have a catwalk running along the tunnel guideway for people to escape out of the tunnel in a fire. Such as if there is a high-speed accident involving several of the cars going over a 120 miles an hour crashing into one another in a pile up 30 feet underground in a one lane wide tunnel. Or if something in someone's trunk catches fire and causes the car to catch fire and to break down in the one lane wide tunnel blocking traffic.
The idea of a deadly high-speed accident involving flawless and invincible driving self-driving cars deep in a narrow tunnel is not out of the question with all of the factors at stake. It would only take one or a few events to go wrong like a bad sensor or computer error mistaking something for something else for a high-speed crash to happen in the tunnels
In a narrow 12 foot across the tunnel with no catwalks, the First Responders would have to walk down the side of the narrow tunnel between the trapped cars and tunnel walls. The 12-foot wide tunnel could become a death trap for First Responders who would have to go inside of the narrow smoke-filled tunnel while carrying injured people on stretchers.
The First Responders would be climbing through the tunnel while trying to fit between cars and the tunnel walls in a tunnel quickly filling up with toxic smoke. The firefighters and paramedics would have to crawl between the dozens of cars trapped in front of the fire trying to get fire hoses up to the line burning cars blocking the main passageway of the tunnel.
At the same time, people would be climbing out of the narrow tunnel that is quickly filling up with smoke. The people will be trying to climb over and between cars and tunnel walls to get out of the tunnel.
Holland Tunnel Fire
An example of a nightmare of a tunnel fire was the 1949 Holland Tunnel that happened in 1949 in New York City's underwater tunnel the Holland Tunnel.
The 1949 Holland Tunnel fire was caused by a truck carrying barrels of toxic chemicals that caught itself and several other cars and trucks on fire in the tunnel. The 1927 Holland Tunnel is a 29.5-foot diameter highway tunnel that has a large powerful ventilation system of fans.
The Holland Tunnel also has a special system of air ducts above and under the roadway to keep air flowing to carbon dioxide from the fossil fuel powered cars under control in the tunnel.
When the massive 1949 fire broke out the Holland Tunnel's tunnel fans were able to keep the massive fire from eating up all the oxygen in the tunnel. The tunnel was also wide enough to allow Firefighters to breathe while fighting the large fire. The firefighters were also able to drive their fire trucks into the tunnel.
But even with the powerful fans and good airflow in the Holland Tunnel, the fire burned for over two days underground in the tunnel destroying over 100 cars and trucks. The fire also injured 66 and killed one firefighter mainly from the toxic smoke. The tunnel fire was so hot that it melted a 300-foot section of the tunnel ceiling and some of the internal steel beams supporting the tunnel that had to be replaced after the fire.
The 1996 Hollywood Movie Daylight was based on the 1949 Holland Tunnel fire expect it added the tunnel caving at both openings from an explosion. The 1996 Movie Daylight however also had the Hudson River come into the mix after the tunnel fire melted through the tunnel's steel and concrete outer walls letting the river in.
But in terms of people dying in a tunnel fire, it's not getting burned up alive in an explosion or in the fire itself, but the biggest danger is all the toxic smoke filling the tunnel. Smoke and carbon monoxide are the biggest killers in a tunnel fire.
The loop tunnels as currently purposed do not have any type of fans or ventilation system to force fresh air into the narrow tunnels. The tunnels most likely can't handle smoke from a car catching fire by accident or someone in a fossil-fueled powered car getting into the tunnel by mistake without a ventilation system.
Other Reasons For A Wider Tunnel
Another aspect of having a wilder tunnel is if Elon Musk is planning to let people drive their personal cars off of the street drive into the tunnel as a short cut. Then the tunnel needs to be at least two lanes wide to allow first responders to drive their fire trucks and ambiances into it get to the scene of a car wreck.
Not to mention the most common type of problem a one lane wide car tunnel would face would be having cars break down in it. Such as if one car has a bad day and breaks down it blocking traffic for hours on end. It could be a mess while a tow truck has to have all the cars in the tunnel behind the block car moved out to get the broken down car out.
The 17-foot diameter tunnel built to the Washington Metro Standard would have a catwalk that would allow for people to climb on to it and run out of the tunnel in a fire. The 5 foot larger tunnel would have double the air capacity in it for the smoke to rise and for more air to enter its openings in a fire.
If Elon Musk still wants to build a tunnel for cars then he needs a 30-foot diameter two-lane wide highway tunnel with a ventilation system for access and safety. Another benefit to having a 30-foot diameter two-lane car tunnel besides safety is it could allow more types of car traffic to enter the tunnel to pay a toll which would bring in more toll revenue. An example is the Holland Tunnel carries at least 40,000 cars a day.
Economic Benefits For The Boring Company If Tunnels Were Wider
There could be several other major economic benefits to the Boring Company and the Washington Region if Elon Musk built a larger diameter tunneling machine that could dig out a 17 foot across the tunnel or even 30 foot across a tunnel.
Elon Musk's new 17-foot diameter tunnel boring machine would help a lot of the Washington Region's canceled light rail and subway projects could come roaring back from the dead.
An example of the demand in the Washington Region for several Metro Standard sized subway tunnels would be for the city of Baltimore to have Elon Musk use his tunneling machines to dig out Baltimore's planned red line.
Baltimore's proposed 14-mile long Red Line a light rail line that is currently planned to run from Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services, Woodlawn, Baltimore County (West) to Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus, Baltimore City (East). The Baltimore Red Line was originally proposed as a 14-mile-long three to four billion dollar light rail line that would have the bulk of the light rail line run in surface traffic with stoplights and cars.
The Baltimore Red Line was originally going to have a four-mile section of it be in an underground subway tunnel which would have added to the bulk of its construction costs. Elon Musk could reboot the Baltimore Red Line as a fully grade separated subway tunnel due to the loop tunnels coming quite close to the red line's path in Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore.
The proposed end section of the loop tunnels in Camden Yards is only a few city blocks away from the proposed red line. The proposed Loop tunnels would be running North to South but the Baltimore Red Line would be running east to west.
Elon Musk's tunneling machine could dig straight underground for a few city blocks from the current end of the loop tunnels in Camden Yards to dig out the red line without the tunneling machine even having to be lifted out of the city streets.
The Boring Company could reboot Baltimore's red line as a fully tunneled subway tunnel below the streets and automobiles while trying to shave a billion or more of the project's price tag.
After the Red Line is built the tunnel boring machines could then dig out an extension to Baltimore's green line subway north 10 miles to White Marsh Maryland.
Endless Options, Lines, Extensions And So On
The tunneling machines could then go another 14 miles north of White Marsh Maryland to the Hartford Mall in Bel Air Maryland. They could then extend the green line another 17 miles north from Owings Mills Station 17 miles to Westminster Maryland to create a regional interurban subway tunnel.
The City of Baltimore also has a 42 mile long proposed yellow line on its city master plan in need of some new subway tunnels after the green line is extended.
Pretty much from here on out dozens of these possible transit ideas could come running out of fantasy into the world of possibility.
As an example is a possible idea the Boring Company could extend the Washington Metro Green line from its current end at the Washington Metro Branch Avenue Metro Station 17 miles south to the St. Charles Town Center in Waldorf Maryland. The new Green Line extension could run under the heavily congested Maryland State Route 5 opening the door for more transit use.
Another possible idea new Metro Line that could be built after the new Greenline extension is dug out.
Elon Musk could dig out a brand new 17 mile long Washington Metro subway line that would run from the Suitland Washington Metro station under the car jammed packed Maryland State Route 4 to Bristol Maryland.
A new 30-mile long Metro line running from the Anacostia Metro Station to Indian Head Maryland and under the Potomac River to Potomac Mills Virginia could be a real possibility with new metro tunnel construction being on sale for 60% off.
They could look into digging out a 25-mile long extension of the Washington Metro's Yellow line from the Huntington Metro station under US Route 1 to Dumfries, Virginia to add Metro Service to Route 1.
The Washington Metro's Orange line could find itself growing with a 25-mile long extension from the current end of the Orange line at the New Carrollton Amtrak Station to downtown Annapolis Maryland. The new 25-mile long Orange Line tunnel extension would run under US Route 50 allowing mega-commuters to tap on their smartphones without getting a ticket.
Here are some extreme examples of some of the more insane and extreme Metro Line proposals that could cause the Washington Metro to grow from its current 117-mile long wimpy size into a 600-mile regional monster system.
Imagine if the currently proposed 35-mile long proposed Metro line making use of Elon Musk's loop tunnels could be extended another 52 miles south from the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station at the National Mall to the Spotsylvania Mall in Spotsylvania Virginia South of Fredericksburg.
This colossal Metro line extension would run under interstates 95 and all of Interstate 395 linking up the Pentagon and the Washington Mall.
The new 52-mile long Metro line would link up all the malls and apartment complexes all along the main exits along Interstates 95 and Interstate 395 to commuters South of Fredericksburg.
A vaster to Washington DC could park their car south of Fredericksburg and take a direct subway line ride into the Washington National Mall and all its wonderful museums.
The Washington Beltway Interstate 495 could get a 64 mile long Metro Line running under it opening up the doors for more transit use.
Some more possibilities that could be dug out for the Washington Metro would be a 47 mile long new Metro Line running from the King Street Washington Metro Station in Alexandria Virginia to Purcellville Virginia.
The new express Alexandria to Purcellville Virginia Metro line could run under the traffic and stoplight infested nightmare of Virginia State Route 7 the whole way.
The Orange line could be extended 42 miles from the Vienna Fairfax Metro Station down Interstate 66 and under US Route 29 and US Route 15 through Gainesville Virginia to Warrenton Virginia.
These mega Metro line extensions would allow mega-commuters to enjoy not sitting in traffic for hours on end.
If Elon Musk had at least a 23-foot diameter boring machine Amtrak also needs help digging out a 1.4-mile long replacement set of tunnels for Amtrak's 1873 era Baltimore and Potomac railroad tunnel that is currently proposed as a $5 billion dollar replacement tunnel. If Tesla could live up to the hype and dig out Amtrak's new tunnel for 500 million to a billion that would be a big help to taxpayers.
The big tuna of tunnel building would be if the Boring Company could replacing Amtrak's 1910 era Hudson River Tunnels for 5 billion instead of the insane 30 billion price tag proposed.
The tens of millions of cubic feet of earth from all these proposed tunnel projects could then be dumped into the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers next to Amtrak's old 1900's Gunpowder River and Bush River Bridges.
The massive amounts of tunnel fill could be used to replace most of Amtrak's old Bush and Gunpowder River bridges with causeways avoiding another set of billion-dollar projects for Amtrak.