Not only might Elon Musk not buy Twitter, he may not build a tunnel to Ontario International Airport either.
Musk’s proposal to bore a tunnel to ONT from the Rancho Cucamonga train station to whisk passengers at high speed got a lot of attention in 2020 and again in 2021. But the deal was quietly called off.
Should we be surprised? It’s Elon Musk. The man likes to change his mind.
The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority still wants to pursue the tunnel. But the Boring Company, Musk’s humorously named tunneling operation, has dropped out, at least for now.
The Boring Company had pitched the concept to SBCTA unsolicited in 2019 as a way to get people from public transit to the airport without the need to acquire land for surface improvements. Instead, riders would descend to an underground station, where they would board an electric tram for the 4-mile trip that would take them under Milliken Avenue, the 10 Freeway and Airport Drive to the terminals.
(Supposedly the tram would travel up to 127 mph. Theoretically that could get you to the airport in two minutes, fast enough that Junior might not have time to ask, “Are we there yet?”)
Boring wanted to handle the entire project from environmental study to design to construction, saying in early 2021 that operations could be underway by early 2024.
Boring and SBCTA officials began negotiating in February 2021. When SBCTA decided to have a third party study the project impacts, with an early 2022 deadline for a proposal, “the Boring Company didn’t want to pursue it” and did not submit one, SBCTA spokesman Tim Watkins told me Monday. “It was their choice.”
As board member Janice Rutherford, a county supervisor, told me: “Apparently Boring is just not ready to deal with California bureaucracy/rules. Good news is that other tunnel companies have risen to the Elon challenge and are now offering more ideas and lower prices. So we’re talking to others.”
A virtual meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday for the public to offer its take on possible environmental concerns that should be studied in the impact report. To register or learn more, visit goSBCTA.com/Tunnel.
Here’s how SBCTA’s website describes the project: “a bi-directional system where passengers traveling to and from ONT will be transported in autonomous, zero-emission vehicles on an ‘on-demand’ basis between the Cucamonga Metrolink Station and ONT terminals.”
All aboard for Anaheim, Azusa, Cucamonga and ONT!
So the project is still on?
“We’re moving forward because we still think it’s a good project,” Watkins affirms. “It’s the Boring Company’s innovation that got us thinking about it. We definitely applaud their vision.”
The SBCTA board this month asked its staff to explore having one company design and build the tunnel. “We are beginning an ‘industry outreach’ effort to help interested entities discern if they would like to consider providing their qualifications when the time comes,” Watkins says.
The two most qualified would be invited to make a formal proposal. “The Boring Company didn’t want to submit a proposal based on what we were looking for at the time,” Watkins explains of the environmental clearance, “but nothing would preclude them participating in any portion of the process going forward,” either solo or in a partnership.
Along the way the price tag has grown from $45 million to $85 million to $492 million. And SBCTA is now envisioning service to start in 2027, or more than three years later than originally announced.
I remain skeptical we’ll ever see it, no matter the price. But if we do, I promise to attend the ribbon-cutting.
While we’re updating old stories, whatever happened to Rancho Cucamonga’s request for proposals for the Filippi Winery property? Stories don’t get more vintage than ones about wine.
The 14-acre site was best known as the Regina Winery, which dates to 1916. Now owned by City Hall, the site not far from Victoria Gardens has been leased since 1993 to the Filippi Winery, whose fourth-generation owner, Joey Filippi, would like to retire.
Three proposals were submitted. Two were for housing plus commercial activity, which the public didn’t like. One would have kept wine production and added more event space, which the public did like. But that developer dropped out.
City leaders pulled the plug earlier this year.
“Let’s put a pause on it,” Mayor Dennis Michael told me last month in explaining the reasoning.
Since talks were scrubbed, Michael said, “a couple of vintners have expressed interest. We want to make it a destination.” He expects the city to start the process over in 2023.
Perhaps the winery ideas just need more time to ferment.
Meanwhile, Filippi Winery is still there making wine, selling bottles, leading tours and, why not, hosting taco Tuesdays at 12467 Base Line Road. Founded in 1922, the winery is marking its centennial all year.
Filippi Winery is a holdout from the days when much of the valley was devoted to vineyards and winemaking. And it looks like it’ll be holding on for a bit longer.
When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck married Saturday in a Las Vegas chapel, they were in line behind “a young couple who made the three-hour drive from Victorville,” Lopez wrote for her fan newsletter’s account of her nuptials. The Inland Empire is everywhere. Just ask Bennifer.
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, which is not quite everywhere. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.