SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBSLA/AP) — A representative from California’s High-Speed Rail Authority is defending the decision to begin construction of tracks in the Central Valley without all necessary approvals in hand.

Board vice chairman Tom Richards spoke Thursday to a panel of California lawmakers about a recent audit of the plan to build a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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Richards says he agrees with auditors’ findings the authority has a poor contract management structure. Richards says its “troubling and embarrassing” that contractors hired by the authority haven’t properly documented their work. He says the authority is already making changes to its management structure and accepts the auditors’ findings.

State auditor Elaine Howle says lawmakers and the public should be “very concerned” about the project’s status.

Its cost has ballooned to an estimated $77 billion and its completion date pushed back to 2033. Richards says the building timeline was essential to access several billion in federal money.

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California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is under pressure to cut funding for the controversial project.

Newsom was an early supporter of the project but has recently expressed reservations around the soaring costs and lack of direction.

“Let’s be honest with people,” Newsom said. “It’s not the vision, it’s the application of the vision.”

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