Home Daily Blitz There Is No Technological Solution to America’s Building Woes

There Is No Technological Solution to America’s Building Woes


The following is an excerpt from HENRY GRABAR | February 7, 2018 | Slate.com |

While Elon Musk launched a car into outer space Tuesday, I was reading about his plans underground. Musk’s Boring Company is a Los Angeles-based venture with a mission less spectacular but more relevant than that of SpaceX: Helping people get around on earth. The idea is to reinvent the science of tunneling (boring, get it?). Musk’s argument is that by making tunneling cheap, we can unleash a wave of underground infrastructure that will solve the problem of “soul-destroying traffic.” And you can imagine it doing a lot more, too.

But Musk is focused on something that’s not the problem. And he’s not alone.

Of course Americans could stand to learn to dig better: As Brian Rosenthal’s New York Times investigation of New York City’s scandalously expensive Second Avenue Subway project demonstrated, our sandhogs don’t always use state-of-the-art technology. Labor unions mandate elevated staffing arrangements, putting twice as many workers as necessary on a TBM (tunnel-boring machine). Per mile, the Second Avenue Subway is the most expensive stretch of heavy rail built in the world. Ergo, we must fix the tunneling. Or at least that’s how many of Musk’s supporters framed his idea.

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