Tunnel Vision for a Tunnel

by Bernard McCormick Wednesday, June 08, 2022 No Comment(s)

Musk could learn a lot from Kinney.

It appears that the Fort Lauderdale City Commission is moving forward with the futuristic plan for the Elon Musk tunnel from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach. As previously written here, this is disturbing on several grounds, not the least of which is that few people support what seems a highly problematic concept. The Sun-Sentinel quoted one citizen who objects to the tunnel as saying she knows no one who thinks it is a good idea. Second that thought. I don't know anybody either. In fact, with newspaper readership in decline, one wonders how many people even grasp the concept.

At first glance, the idea of a tunnel to relieve the traffic bottleneck leading to the Las Olas Boulevard's access to the beach seems praiseworthy. That is, if it were a real tunnel — one in which people could drive their cars under the existing problem, much the way the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel takes U.S. 1 drivers under the New River. But I wonder how many people understand this is not that kind of tunnel. This is a special design used to accommodate only special Tesla vehicles. It is a good idea for connecting an airport to a nearby population center or mass transit facility. It is a fast version of a bus between two points. But the current traffic problem is not one that buses or any form of existing mass transit can solve. If it could, the problem would be solved already. 

Rather, the problem is people who need to drive their own cars. If those people were all going to the Brightline station (the proposed western terminus) or to the Elbo Room on the beach, it would be one thing. But that traffic consists of people going all over the beach at one end and in countless directions from downtown at the other. They need their cars to complete their trips. What are they supposed to do — rent a car after they leave the tunnel?

Common sense tells us the tunnel users would largely be tourists, and they aren't the obvious source of the congestion. You would think the first thing the city would do is survey those now causing the traffic problem, to find out where they are going and whether they would use the tunnel. Do this before any money (and nobody knows how much) is spent planning and executing the novel Musk concept. 

At the same time consider the feasibility of a real tunnel between downtown and the beach. As written here before, it could be much shorter, and presumably a lot cheaper, connecting Broward Boulevard to the beginning of the Las Olas Isles, either beneath the very busy 15th Avenue (where the worst gridlock occurs) or from the point where Broward turns north into Victoria Park Road, and then just four blocks south under the existing canal to Las Olas.

You could call it the McCormick Tunnel. if Musk wants to build it, add his good name to the project.

Photo credit: formulanone from Huntsville, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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