The Portland region’s top Oregon Department of Transportation official has left his post and taken a job with a private company. Jason Tell, who has spent 18 years with ODOT — eight of them as Region 1 Director — is now the Senior Planning Manager at the downtown Portland office of Parsons Brinckerhoff.
ODOT has named Planning and Development Manager Rian Windsheimer as the interim Region 1 Director.
In his new role, Tell will manage projects throughout the region. He’ll also, “Advise and guide public agencies on funding, public and political support, policy issues and implementation strategies for complex transportation projects.”
When we asked Tell what has changed at ODOT in the last 18 years, he said, “In particular, a greater focus on all modes of transportation, engaging with the community and groups that weren’t always brought in on ODOT plans and projects, and organizational change.”
While we certainly disagreed with some of Tell’s positions over the years (most notably his his staunch opposition to a road diet on SW Barbur), we also appreciated much of the work he oversaw.
Tell was an ardent supporter of improving safety on our region’s roads. In 2009 he floated an amendment to the Regional Transportation Plan that was sort of a step in the direction of Vision Zero. He also helped shepherd the Gateway Green project from a twinkle in a developer and activist’s eye into a full-fledged, State of Oregon priority. In fact, one of his last acts as Region 1 Director was to officially sign over ownership of 19 acres of the property (adjacent to I-205) from ODOT to the City of Portland.
In October 2008, one year after the death of Brett Jarolimek ripped through our city, Tell said the tragedy made such an impact on him that he went to bat for a permanent memorial to be built on a wall of the overpass where the collision took place (it was never built, but not for lack of support from ODOT or Tell).
Of all the events and meetings I saw Tell at over the years, by far the happiest and most animated I’d ever seen him was at the 2013 Policymakers Ride. Dressed in his stylish biking shirt and shorts, Tell spoke at the trail head of a new section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail and called its dedication “a huge milestone” that’s “worth every penny.”
Given his new role, I have a hunch we haven’t heard the last of Tell. And, given his track record at ODOT, that’s not such a bad thing.
Good luck Jason!