California Considers Putting Bullet Train Tunnel Under Burbank Airport

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The Hollywood Burbank Airport is seen in a file photo from 2003. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The Hollywood Burbank Airport is seen in a file photo from 2003. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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The complexity of building a bullet train through Southern California’s urban maze is leading state officials to consider two major additions: a tunnel under the Burbank airport and a project that would help a freight railroad expand its switching yards in the Inland Empire.

Engineering studies reveal potential complications in the $80-billion project that have yet to be fully understood, even as the California High-Speed Rail Authority struggles to complete 119 miles of construction in the Central Valley that is over budget and behind schedule.

In a September review of its Central Valley work, obtained by The Times and marked “confidential,” the rail authority listed the Burbank airport station as a program risk that could delay the completion of environmental reports by three to six months. It could also delay a freight train impact analysis for the Los Angeles-to-Anaheim segment by three to six months and calculations for estimated bullet train trip times across the system by six to 18 months.

Studying a Burbank airport tunnel may be academic, since the state doesn’t have the money to build the Southern California section of the bullet train, part of a roughly $50-billion to $60-billion shortfall in the project’s funding. Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged his support to building a 171-mile subsystem in the Central Valley between Merced and Bakersfield.

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