- The California High Speed Rail Authority could be in store for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of change orders and claims, all for the first 29 miles of the $64 billion bullet train’s revised route, according to The Los Angeles Times. Construction industry experts said additional claims could surpass $400 million.
- Several of the priciest contractors, including Tutor Perini, have hiked up their original estimates between 10%-30%, and additional changes and claims from smaller contractors and suppliers are expected to follow. Tutor Perini’s most recent changes alone total $51.7 million, but that does not include price changes not yet revealed.
- After a Times investigation calling the accuracy and transparency of the authority into question, tension between state officials and the agency has been high, with legislators demanding public hearings to address the authority’s ability to carry out its ambitious project.
This latest development could put the entire rail endeavor in jeopardy, according to The Times, as the authority has assured critics many times that it had signed, under-budget contracts in hand. If the changes prove valid, state officials are sure to question the project’s viability yet again.
The Times reported that two of the un-priced change orders from Tutor Perini are for project delays due to the authority’s failure to turn over land as specified in the $1 billion contract. When Tutor Perini came on board in 2013, the state had purchased very little land for the rail system, and construction did not start until 2015. Those change orders could add up to as much as $95 million.
"If you award a contract and promise to make the land available and it isn't there, it can have consequences," William Ibbs, a UC Berkeley civil engineering professor and high-speed rail expert, told The Times.
Authority officials said that none of these new claims have been finalized, and they said they have not ruled out back-charging contractors for their own delays.
At a meeting of the California Assembly transportation committee to discuss the rail authority’s new business plan, authority chair Dan Richard said the additional change orders outlined by The Times is not proof of poor planning on the authority’s part, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported. "There are risks associated with those contracts," Richard said. "In identifying those risks, it doesn’t mean those risks are going to happen."