Two members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors have been advised by agency staff not to participate in public meetings on the Midpeninsula -- where elected officials have persistently criticized the plan and residents have occasionally jeered the board members.
Rod Diridon, a former Santa Clara County supervisor and member of the authority's board, said at Thursday's board meeting that he and fellow board member Quentin Kopp were instructed to avoid the Midpeninsula, where city leaders adamantly oppose above-ground rail designs.
Menlo Park and Atherton sued the authority, forcing it to rewrite several sections of its environmental impact report for the Peninsula segment. Palo Alto filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the cities' case.
The authority on Thursday unanimously approved a "supplemental alternatives analysis" for the San Peninsula segment. The document essentially eliminates the two locally popular options: covered trenches and deep tunnels. It instead recommends designs that rely on at-grade tracks, aerial viaducts and some short tunnels.
The rail authority approved the report with little discussion despite pleas from many Peninsula officials and residents who asked the board to keep the tunneling and covered-trenching options on the table.
Just before the board's vote, Diridon said he has "a little impatience" about retaining all the design options that were previously identified. He reaffirmed his view that the rail system will go up the Peninsula and along the Pacheco Pass route rather than an alternative alignment through the Altamont Pass.
He also asked Peninsula residents to "come together" and help the authority come up with a solution that's both acceptable and affordable.
"We've got to move from our entrenched positions," Diridon said, with no hint of irony.
He quickly clarified that by "we" he means the residents because, he said, the rail authority isn't legally allowed to reach conclusions before adequately studying all options.
"Give me a break!" a member of the audience shouted.
Diridon told the audience that the interruption was "really rude" and that such interruptions are among reasons he and Kopp no longer make presentations in the Midpeninsula.
"Last time we were there you shouted us down," Diridon said. "That's not democracy. That's a sick kind of process." Diridon said he would be willing to return if people were more polite.
"I'll come back and meet with you any time that you be polite and let me meet with you," he added.
Not all directors are avoiding the Peninsula. Board Chair Curt Pringle last month toured the Caltrain Corridor with elected officials from Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and Mountain View.
Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline thanked Pringle for his visit and said communication between the rail authority and local leaders has improved.