Course on high-speed rail attracts 200 students

A seven-week course examining the state’s proposed high-speed rail project is under way at California University, Fresno this semester, including a public town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 that will feature key players in the debate.

More than 200 students are participating in weekly seminars including Smittcamp Family Honors College President’s Scholars and engineering students.

The seminars run Sept. 22-Nov. 3 and are not open to the public. However, the town hall meeting in the Satellite Student Union on campus is free to the public.

At the town hall, advocates for and against the project will participate, including Assemblymember David Valadao (R-Fresno), Elizabeth Alexis with Californians for Responsible Rail Design, Bryn Forhan, a spokesperson for the state High-Speed Rail Authority, and Daniel Krause with Californians for High-Speed Rail. The session will be an opportunity for people in the audience to ask questions. Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwen will moderate.

Experts in the economics and planning of high-speed rail in Central California have been invited to attend the forum, said Dr. Mark Somma, a political science professor who is teaching the course with Dr. Honora Chapman, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College.

For the weekly seminars, state, local, nonprofit and university experts on high-speed rail are scheduled to speak.

They include Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin; Fresno County Supervisors Henry Perea and Susan B. Anderson; Reolof van Ark, the rail authority CEO; representatives of Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) and Jeff Denham (R-Merced); and Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Somma said the class is one of the largest on campus this semester and is geared to inform some of “Fresno State’s best and brightest students a comprehensive look at this high-profile issue in our community.”

Fresno Works, a coalition of Fresno city and county officials, the Council of Fresno County Governments, business, labor and education promoting high-speed rail, assisted with arranging the speakers.

University Communications news intern Reganie Love-Smith contributed to this report.

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