A plan by Elon Musk’s Boring Company for a project that would connect the San Antonio airport to downtown via twin underground tunnels is among two proposals a local transportation agency is considering.

In a meeting Wednesday, the board of the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (Alamo RMA) confirmed the staff’s recommendation of proposals from the Boring Company and from Bexar Automated Transport to advance to the interview stage. 

Both companies will be invited at a later date to present a full proposal and answer questions before the board makes its final selection. 

After feasibility studies are conducted, the project could move forward on a fast timeline.

In all, five companies submitted proposals in response to a request for qualifications and proposals issued by the Alamo RMA, an independent governmental entity created by the Bexar County Commissioners Court. 

Last month, the authority’s staff ranked the proposals based on each company’s profile and financial capacity, experience and qualifications, the project description and financial feasibility.

Renee Green, director of public works and county engineer, outlined each of the proposals for the board. 

The proposal by Austin-based Boring to build a tunnel 30 feet below ground scored highest among them, with 91.6 points. The system would use Tesla cars to ferry passengers the 9 miles between the airport and downtown.

The company, which has built a similar tunnel loop in Las Vegas, estimated the “Alamo Loop” project would cost up to $300 million. 

A proposal by Bexar Automated Transport, a company made up of several transportation entities, scored second with 80 points. Its plan calls for an autonomous bus using a combination of elevated and underground tracks — estimated to cost $330 million.

Other proposals came from San Antonio SkyShuttle Express which pitched an autonomous tram running along the U.S. Hwy. 281 right-of-way at a cost of $1.5 billion, and Oceaneering International, which proposed a system of at-grade or elevated travel lanes running along McCullough Avenue, costing up to $562 million. 

The plan offered by TriTrack Motors called for spending $24 million to build an elevated track for three-wheeled autonomous vehicles that could travel at up to 180 mph. 

The airport-to-downtown concept began in October 2019 when the Alamo RMA issued an open request for information to determine whether there was interest in the industry in partnering with the authority on a new revenue-generating transportation project.

The Boring Company responded to the request with its Alamo Loop proposal. 

“They had proposed a certain level of ridership that seemed reasonable that showed that it can actually make money and there was an opportunity there,” Green said. 

To take it to the next step, the authority released its request for proposals in October 2021 and evaluated those proposals late last year. The transportation model targets the existing rideshare market and should pay for itself. 

It would not be taxpayer-funded, though bonds could be issued to finance the debt, Green said. “We don’t want to have to subsidize this — it needs to generate revenue for us to move forward.”

Green told the board that once a company is selected, “the real work starts.” 

The seven-member board would next consider the legal and financial feasibility of the project, verify the cost estimates with an engineer’s report and evaluate the project’s impact on the environment. Board members said they would be asking both companies to present a plan to gather public input about the project as well. 

When asked about the project timeline, Green told the San Antonio Report, “Obviously, fast.”

But the most important aspect of the system is that it has to be expandable, she said. “We don’t want this to be a one-off. We want it to be built on with ‘fingers’ extending out.”

Green said there’s some discussion of a transportation project in Austin similar to the airport-to-downtown proposal, and that it could connect to San Antonio. 

“But that’s going to be ‘way out there,’” she said of the timing. 

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.