KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — The City of Kyle is on the verge of partnering with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company (TBC) to build a pedestrian tunnel that would connect two communities within the city.
The underpass would connect the Plum Creek subdivision with a mixed-use project to the east called Kyle Crossing, which is expected to bring destination dining and retail, according to KXAN’s media partners at the Austin Business Journal.
“This tunnel starts at Marketplace [Avenue] and [FM] 1626 where the new development is going in, and then will cross underneath the railroad tracks to the cul-de-sac at Cromwell [Drive],” said Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers during an April 5 city council meeting.
“It will be lit throughout, striped, paved,” he added, saying the tunnel would be 12 feet in diameter and about 900 linear feet.
The area around the tunnel “will connect to a destination park, adjacent professional offices, dining, and retail options,” according to city documents.
“I think that’s pretty amazing, honestly,” said Courtney Cordova, who’s lived in Kyle for 12 years. “I’d love to be able to — if my kids ask to go to Target, to just say yes. Because right now, we have to say no, or we have to drive them. So, yeah, it would be great for them to jump on their bikes and head on over there.”
But she said it would also be a safety improvement.
“I actually do see a lot of people in the 55+ community drive their … like, their power scooters, and they go over that bridge, and it’s always dangerous,” she said.
Safety and connectivity are also both reasons the city cited behind this project.
“With the development of Kyle Parkway, the witnessed number of increased pedestrians walking along the elevated bridge on Kyle Parkway, with no protected path or sidewalk, have raised concern,” wrote Kyle spokesperson Samantha Armbruster in an email to KXAN.
She said the tunnel would also be part of a larger plan to connect different trails and pedestrian paths from the far north and west sides to the east of the city.
“For that connectivity to be seamless, several pedestrian connections needed to be addressed for to overcome barriers to connectivity – those are: railways, major roadways and the interstate. This project would address the railway connectivity,” Armbruster wrote.
The tunnel would be built under the Union Pacific railroad tracks south of Kyle Parkway/FM1626, according to city documents, also passing under detention ponds on both sides of the track.
“The pedestrian underpass will accommodate multimodal transportation options both slow and fast moving, including electric vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians,” city documents stated.
“TBC’s design will include provisions to prevent impacts to existing structures and monitor them closely during construction. Structures will be surveyed and inspected prior to construction and monitored during construction,” the company stated in city documents.
The contract is scheduled to be approved during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, but Kyle’s mayor told KXAN News staff will request the item be postponed “for one meeting while attorneys finalize details.”
The biggest question now for Cordova is about money.
“How much is it going to cost? Are our taxes going to go up?” she said.
Once approved, the City of Kyle would pay $50,000 for a site visit, initial drilling for investigation, Geotechnical lab testing and a preliminary engineering and construction cost report.
A spokesperson for the City of Kyle said the development agreement with the property next to the tunnel included up to $3 million in private funding for the project.
She said the “final cost will be determined in a future design/build contract that will be entered into with TBC.”
According to its website, TBC claims to create Loop tunnels for about $10 million per mile, while many other projects cost between $100 million and $1 billion per mile.
The city said future maintenance money for the tunnel would be included in the city’s annual budget, “but the project might also result in additional sales tax income due to making a more convenient connection to key retail and dining locations in the community.”
The City of Austin is also exploring options with TBC. Staff recently traveled to Las Vegas to take a look at that city’s implementation of tunnels.
Kyle’s spokesperson said after geo technical investigations, the project would be designed and permits applied for with Union Pacific. Once those are granted, the project is expected to be completed within six months.