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State Senate candidates travel separate tracks on bullet train

October 23, 2012 |  8:58 am

California’s plan to build a $68-billion bullet train divided the Legislature this summer, so it is no surprise that it became a hot-button election issue. And nowhere is that split more on show than in the 5th Senate District contest in the San Joaquin Valley.

The race features two Stockton lawmakers: Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, a leading proponent of the high-speed rail project, and Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, one of the most outspoken opponents of the project in the Legislature.

Galgiani’s campaign is touting that she authored the legislation that put the California High-Speed Train Bond Act of 2008 on the ballot, where voters approved the project. And she played a leading role in winning legislative approval of first-phase funding this year as chairwoman of the Assembly select committee on high-speed rail.

That position out front on the issue has made her a target of criticism from Berryhill, who believes the project will cost much more than is budgeted and is not affordable.

"California should be focusing its resources on educating our kids and keeping prisoners behind bars -– not building a $100-billion train,’’ Berryhill said. "It’s the equivalent of going out and buying a brand new Cadillac when you can’t pay your mortgage.’’

Galgiani acknowledged during a recent forum that some residents also don’t like the plan.

"I know that not all of you support that project but there are 100,000 jobs coming...," Galgiani said during the forum co-hosted by California State University, Stanislaus. She also noted that the Senate district is home to 300,000 commuters who would like to be able to get to their jobs easier.

"The alternative to high-speed rail is 12 lanes of highway,’’ Galgiani said.


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Photo: An artist's rendering of the high-speed train traveling along the coast of California. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority.