Morales also said the project can make up for any delays.
But Bent Flyvbjerg, a University of Oxford business professor and a leading expert on megaproject risk, said the lagging schedule, litigation, growing costs and permit delays arising so early in construction are warning signs that even more delays and higher costs are coming."You have an 80% to 90% probability of a cost overrun on a project like this," Flyvbjerg said.
Although some large tunnels have been constructed elsewhere without difficulty, including the 3,399-foot Caldecott Tunnel in the Bay Area, others have encountered costly problems.
Rail officials have said they plan to choose a route and secure environmental approvals for the Burbank-to-Merced line by 2017, at which point the tunneling itself could be put out to bid.
So far, land acquisition has been the biggest cause of delays.
The first construction began in Fresno in July, 21/2 years behind the target the rail authority had set in early 2012.
A confidential 2013 report by the state's main project management contractor, New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, estimated that the cost of building the first phase from Burbank to Merced had risen 31% to $40 billion.
The authority owns only a small fraction of the parcels it needs for the 300-mile segment from Burbank to Merced.
Above, a property on Wentworth Street in Tujunga, where a tunnel may be dug in the San Gabriels."Faults are notorious for causing trouble." The California High-Speed Rail Authority hasn't yet chosen an exact route through the mountains.It also is behind schedule on land acquisition, financing and permit approvals, among other crucial tasks, and is facing multiple lawsuits.But the state used a lower cost estimate when it issued its 2014 business plan four months later.Jeff Morales, the rail authority chief executive, said he was not aware of the Parsons Brinckerhoff projection.The bullet train will require about 20 miles of tunnels under the San Gabriel Mountains between Burbank and Palmdale, involving either a single tunnel of 13.8 miles or a series of shorter tunnels.