Facebook’s failure to convert a railroad could be a warning for the boring company

  • Facebook spent $20 million on plans to revive a railroad bridge near its office to improve traffic.
  • The project, which was abandoned due to political pressure, may be a glimpse of The Boring Company’s future.
  • Elon Musk’s tunnel infrastructure company has completed only one known project.

Facebook’s failed plans to revive an old railroad bridge to ease traffic congestion near its offices are among the latest stumbling blocks facing forward-looking tech companies as they try to solve transportation problems.

The social media company planned to renovate the Dumbarton Rail Bridge – a disused railway that spans San Francisco Bay – after it bought Instagram and Whatsapp, and expanded its workforce almost tenfold in six years from 3,200 in 2011 to over 25,000 workers by 2017 .

The bridge was meant to streamline the increased traffic to the headquarters and expand Facebook’s real estate portfolio, renovating the railway that had been dormant for 40 years.

The $20 million project — started in 2017 and abandoned in 2020 due to political hurdles and COVID-19 complications, according to The New York Times, which published a deep dive into the failed project on Saturday — could be a glimpse of Elon’s future Musk’s Boring Company, which has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “ghosting” major US cities by backing away from proposals to build tunnel systems.

The Boring Company, an infrastructure company that started as a subsidiary of SpaceX before being spun off in 2018, has since its inception promised to build high-speed tunnels in major cities in an effort to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian access. It raised $657 million in Series C investment, giving the company a valuation of nearly $5.7 billion.

Since the completion of the research and development test tunnel in Hawthorne, California in 2018, The Boring Company has completed only one project open to the public: a 1.7-mile loop connecting the campuses of the Las Vegas Convention Center with the exhibition hall.

Plans for other tunnels – including projects in Los Angeles, connecting Washington, DC to Baltimore, and from the Chicago airport to the downtown area – have been scrapped by The Boring Company.

Los Angeles proposals to build tunnels under the congested 405 freeway and near Dodger Stadium were abandoned in 2018 and 2021, TechCrunch reported, after facing criticism from city council members for being “rushed.”

The DC to Baltimore transit system, announced in 2017, was canceled in 2021 after problems with environmental review processes and permitting delays, The Washington Post reported.

In Chicago, a 2018 bid by The Boring Company to build high-speed tunnels to O’Hare Airport was dropped by June 2021, following public criticism of the lack of transparency surrounding the unproven technology, The Chicago Business Journal reported.

“Every time I see him on TV with a new project, or whatever, I’m like, Oh, I remember that bullet train to Chicago O’Hare,” The Wall Street Journal reported Chicago City Councilman Scott Waguespack, referring to Musk .

Former executives at The Boring Company say the company is struggling to retain engineers and technical staff, given Musk’s strict management style, which includes working 120-hour weeks and sleeping on couches in his factories and expecting employees to do the same.

The Boring Company was created after a series of apparent pranks 2016 tweets sent in the early hours of the morning by Musk, in which he complained about the traffic and promised to start digging tunnels.

“The traffic is driving me crazy. I’m going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…,” he posted at 05.05 A few hours later added: “I’m actually going to do this.”

While journalists and consumers immediately questioned whether Musk was serious about creating The Boring Company, early progress in development led to critics for several years.

Now, on the website, the only tunnel projects listed include modifications to the Las Vegas Loop. It is unclear whether The Boring Company will bid on additional tunnel projects in the future or complete the planned additions to the Vegas Loop.

Online, critics is voice concerns that the whole company was a “fraud“or”bait and switch” which was “designed to propose automotive alternatives to mass transit projects” and drive business against his electric car company, Tesla.

Despite its failed plan to realize the Dumbarton Rail Bridge project, Facebook still has massive infrastructure commitments, mainly in the form of undersea cable procurement and development.

The social media company, renamed Meta since it began cable development and scrapped the bridge plan, has bought 6% of the operation of cable routes worldwide starting in 2022, according to the Fair Internet Report, a market research firm. By the time its 2Africa infrastructure project is complete, Meta will have an interest in more than 13% of the world’s undersea cable infrastructure, spanning 33 countries and touching 36% of the world’s population.

Although the future of The Boring Company’s tunnels remains unclear, it appears that Musk will continue to seek to innovate existing infrastructure through his many ventures — including plans to use Tesla’s energy storage technology to “change the entire Earth’s energy and transportation infrastructure,” Electrek , a transportation news service, reported.

Representatives for Facebook and The Boring Company did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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