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The monumental task of building California's bullet train will require punching 36 miles of tunnels through the geologically complex mountains north of Los Angeles.Crews will have to cross the tectonic boundary that separates the North American and Pacific plates, boring through a jumble of fractured rock formations and a maze of earthquake faults, some of which are not mapped."The range is far more complex than anything those people know."SIGN UP for the free California Inc.business newsletter Herbert Einstein, an MIT civil engineer and another of the nation's top tunneling experts, said, "I don't think it is possible.""Having looked at a number of these long tunnels, [the California] plan is aggressive," said Einstein, who has consulted on a 35-mile-long tunnel under the Swiss Alps.The state will probably opt for twin bores — one for each of two parallel tracks.That means as many as 72 miles of tunneling before 2022. "No way," said Leon Silver, a Caltech geologist and a leading expert on the San Gabriel Mountains.
Public opinion polls taken over the years have shown that support for the project has ebbed as costs have risen — and at billion, the budget is already more than double the -billion estimate made by the rail authority before California voters approved bonds for the project seven years ago.
It will be the most ambitious tunneling project in the nation's history.
State officials say the tunnels will be finished by 2022 — along with 300 miles of track, dozens of bridges or viaducts, high-voltage electrical systems, a maintenance plant and as many as six stations.
Morales said the state does not have a detailed schedule showing how those milestones will be met.
He said the task will be left to future contractors.