High Speed Rail News

Longtime San Jose transportation leader Rod Diridon Sr. leaves high speed rail authority board

Posted: 12/31/2010 07:10:10 PM PST
Updated: 12/31/2010 08:53:02 PM PST

Member Rod Diridon listens during meeting. A standing-room only crowd... ( KAREN T. BORCHERS )

Silicon Valley leaders on Friday expressed concern about the departure of Rod Diridon Sr. from the board of California's High-Speed Rail Authority, saying it may cost Santa Clara County an influential voice in how the multibillion-dollar project is carried out in the region.

On Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reappointed former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle to the rail authority's board. Schwarzenegger also named Fresno real estate developer Thomas Richards and Los Angeles publisher Matthew Toledo to the board, which is overseeing the development of the $43 billion rail system from Anaheim to San Francisco.

But Diridon, 71, who has served for the past 10 years on the rail authority's board and whose term expired Friday, was not reappointed.

"Silicon Valley needs to have strong and effective representation on the authority's board," Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said in a news release Friday.

"High-speed rail is essential to our economy. The Bay Area was fortunate to have Rod Diridon Sr. on the board. His knowledge and experience in the field of transportation is deep and cannot be easily replaced. To lose a person on the board like him is a real blow, and I find it troubling."

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed agreed.

"Rod has great experience, and I'm disappointed he was not picked," said Reed, who also worries that the current board does not include a representative from Silicon Valley.

Reed noted the "difficulties" the rail board has had with cities between San Jose and San Francisco; many are opposed to the rail authority's plans for aerial tracks in their areas, and some Peninsula towns have filed suit. Having somebody from Silicon Valley on the board, Reed said, "could help work out those problems."

Reached Friday, Diridon said his fate has "been signaled for quite some time."''

Schwarzenegger, he said, "wanted people with very strong business backgrounds" on the board as the project moves from planning to construction. But Diridon, who had also served as chairman of the rail authority board, said he felt his background in both government and private business "is pretty strong."

He is the executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State and, as a Santa Clara County supervisor from 1974-94, helped launch the Valley Transportation Authority's light-rail system.

Nevertheless, he said, "the governor has the right to appoint whomever he chooses, and I'm really honored to have served two years longer than anyone" on the high speed rail board.

The board is made up of nine members. Diridon said five are appointed by the governor, and two members each by the state Assembly and Senate. He was first named to a four-year term by Gov. Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger gave him another four-year appointment, followed by a two-year term.

Diridon said he will continue to be an advocate for the high-speed rail project, particularly the local section.

"If San Jose and the South Valley are together and determined, we could be building that project in the next three to four years," he said.
























































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