Mystery Solved: Why Elon Musk Tweeted About a DC Tunnel

The much-discussed photo Musk tweeted is of a D.C. sewer tunnel he toured on Friday

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's mysterious tweets about tunnels have sparked a flurry of speculation about his next project -- and he apparently did some research last week in D.C.

The founder of the electric car company Tesla and the private spacecraft company SpaceX toured a D.C. sewer tunnel on Friday, DC Water spokesman John Lisle confirmed.

Musk tweeted a photo of a tunnel-boring machine on Friday and then a tunnel on Saturday, noting the tunnel was in D.C. but giving no details.

Musk's every tweet sparks conversation among technology followers about what he will do next. "Elon Musk tweets tunneling image (but whose tunnel?)," a blog post published Sunday to the tech website CNET asked.

Since November, Musk has spoken about solving Los Angeles' traffic problem by building tunnels for underground, high-speed travel.

He toured the 2 1/2-mile-long Anacostia River Tunnel and saw the tunnel-boring machine that created it, Lisle said. The German company that made the machine, Herrenknecht AG, led the tour and notified the water utility, according to the DC Water spokesman.

Herrenknecht AG and a spokesman for Musk both declined to answer questions about the purpose of the tour.

Musk attended a meeting of President Donald Trump's business advisory council at the White House on Friday. That morning, Musk tweeted a photo of a tunnel-boring machine. "Minecraft," he wrote, a pun referencing the video game in which players dig tunnel networks.

The next afternoon, Musk tweeted a photo of a tunnel and wrote, "26 ft diameter tunnel running 2 miles under D.C."

Giving rise to a wave of speculation about his plans, the entrepreneur tweeted in December about a plan to create a giant tunnel under Los Angeles to ease congestion.

He said he wasn't joking and that he would found a venture called The Boring Company.

In January, Musk obtained permits in Los Angeles to dig a tunnel 50 feet below ground near SpaceX headquarters, the Los Angeles newspaper The Daily Breeze reported. The newspaper reported that Musk is in talks with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to buy one of its tunnel boring machines, according to several sources close to the project.

“We’re going to get this machine, take it apart, figure out how to make it go much faster while still being safe and not affecting people on the surface," Musk said at a news conference related to his Hyperloop project, The Daily Breeze reported.

The Hyperloop project aims to transport people in vacuum tubes that propel vehicles at very high speeds.

A boring machine named Lady Bird completed its 2-year, 4.5-mile tunneling mission for DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project. Mark Segraves reports.

Musk toured a DC Water tunnel, but the water utility is not working with him, Lisle said. Groups regularly tour their project sites. 

DC Water completed the Anacostia River Tunnel in November. The tunnel 23 feet in diameter diverts sewage from the river. It runs from Southeast D.C. near RFK Stadium to the other side of the river, near the Anacostia Metro station.

Time lapse video gives a virtual tour of the entire tunnel.

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