Meet Jessica Horning, ODOT’s new active transportation liaison

Posted by on November 27th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Jessica Horning

Jessica Horning.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In case you missed it, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently hired a Transit and Active Transportation Liaison for the Portland metro area (what ODOT refers to as Region 1). The new hire is 31-year-old Humboldt neighborhood resident Jessica Horning. Since we’ll surely be seeing and hearing a lot from Jessica in the future, I figured we should get to know her a bit better.

I recently asked Jessica a few questions via email…

What is your primary responsibility at ODOT?

My primary responsibility is to guide ODOT Region 1 in developing a collaborative and strategic approach to pedestrian, bicycle, and transit issues in the Portland Metro. That includes:

  • building/strengthening partnerships with TriMet, local jurisdictions, and community organizations (BTA, Oregon Walks, etc.);
  • working to proactively identify and prioritize transit and active transportation improvements on ODOT facilities;
  • assisting with planning, design, and implementation of active transportation projects; and
  • growing internal staff awareness of and expertise in transit and active transportation issues.
  • Part of what makes this position exciting to me is the fact that it is new approach to centralizing these activities, so there is some flexibility to shape the position to meet the region’s needs as we identify them.

What is your personal and professional background?

“I have been going on a lot of “exploratory” walks and rides lately to get a better feel for what it’s like to be a pedestrian or cyclist on different ODOT facilities.”

I received my Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where I was also a Research Assistant at the Active Communities and Transportation Research Group. Since then, my professional experience has been as a consultant at Cambridge Systematics in Washington, DC and at Kittelson & Associates, Inc. here in Portland. In both of these positions I have had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of planners, engineers, and designers on projects ranging from national research, to long-range plans, to development review. Some of the projects I have played a lead role in include: the Washington County Bicycle Design Toolkit; the City of Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook, Central Ave Transit-Oriented Development Implementation Plan, and the Maryland DOT’s Statewide Trails Plan. I have always had a particular passion for transit and active transportation issues, which is what led me to this position at ODOT.

On the personal end of things, I’m an active member of Portland Bike Polo and had the privilege of traveling to Geneva, Switzerland this summer to witness Portland United take 5th place in the Bike Polo World Championships while also checking out Geneva’s amazing transit system, cycle tracks, and home zones. (If I may put in a shameless plug, Portland Bike Polo is currently looking for a location to host the 5th Annual Ladies Army tournament, featuring 150 of the best female bike polo players from around the world, so if you own a large parking lot or warehouse space that you are willing to rent for a weekend in June 2013, please look us up on Facebook!)

Can you describe some of the projects/policies you are working on now and in the future?

Some of the efforts on my “to-do” list include:

  • Develop a Region 1 Pedestrian/Bicycle Project Needs Inventory
  • Inventory active transportation improvements to ODOT facilities identified in local and regional plans
  • Coordinate with community organizations to identify concerns, needs, and priorities
  • Conduct quantitative analysis of ped/bike “hot spots” (e.g. high crash locations)
  • Build partnerships to identify and pursue funding for active transportation projects
  • Provide technical assistance to advance transit, pedestrian, and bicycle elements of existing ODOT projects (e.g. TV Highway, N/NE Quadrant Plan)
  • Promote staff development opportunities regarding transit, pedestrian, and bicycle issues, such as Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals webinars.
You recently rode up into Vancouver (WA), over the I-5 bridge, and back on the I-205 bridge. What did you see and experience and how might that translate into the work you do at ODOT?

I have been going on a lot of “exploratory” walks and rides lately to get a better feel for what it’s like to be a pedestrian or cyclist on different ODOT facilities. For me, it’s the quickest way to get an understanding of where and what the issues are. Where did I want/need to cross the street? Where did I hop onto the sidewalk because traffic was too scary? Where did I get lost? Firsthand experiences are way easier for me to remember and use as a basis to start brainstorming potential solutions.

The I-5 to I-205 trip introduced me to some great new areas where I want to bike and explore more, as well as some areas where there are gaps in the network, need for more wayfinding, and opportunities to improve facilities to serve a broader range of users. It was also the first ride I’ve attempted to document on Twitter, and the additional feedback I received was great! I have several other rides scheduled with various community groups over the coming weeks, so if there is an area you think I need to experience, please let me know!


Thanks for answering my questions Jessica. We look forward to working with you.

You can contact Jessica via email at

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    9watts November 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I’m impressed. I look forward to more.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson November 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    looks like ODOT picked up a winner!

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    Mark Lear November 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    A nice hire for sure – good luck Jessica!

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    Jim Lee November 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    More planning gibberish.

    Plus other issues too hot to mention.

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    cold worker November 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Jess is badass. She’s a cyclist. No fair weather b.s. either. I’m confident she will push/promote/suggest all sorts of progressive ideas about active transportation infrastructure. I’m confident the majority of which will be crushed under the weight of bureaucracy and soft politicians.

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    Cecily November 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Yes for Jess! Jess is the best! So happy to have an active cyclist and polo player representing in this important position.

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    Jesse B November 27, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Jess helped Kittelson become a bronze bicycle friendly business; well beyond any job description. Can you get silver for ODOT region 1 Jess?

    We will miss her at Kittelson for her passion to advance the ped-bike field forward.

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    K'Tesh November 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    Looking forward to working with you Jess!

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    Kirk November 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Happy for ODOT to have someone so knowledgeable on their team!

    JM – Shouldn’t the bullet points state OW instead of WPC? 😉

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    Barbara November 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Welcome Jess! I’m looking forwardto hearing more from you. If you are looking to expand your bike and walk strolls I suggest SW Portland. Because of the topography there are not a lot of suitable neighborhood street for biking/walking and you end up quickly on ODOT-roads like Barbur BLvd, Cpitol Hwy or Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy that are very car-centric and hostile to bicyclists and pedestrians. Those streets don’t even have the basics like sidewalks or pedestrian crossings and the bikelanes are miserable next to freeway speed traffic.

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    Steve B. November 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Jessica rocks. Nice move, ODOT!

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    Suzanne January 2, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Welcome Jessica, I look forward to meeting you.

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