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Rick Browning, hired to manage major bikeway project, says he was fired by PBOT

Posted by on February 11th, 2016 at 3:11 pm

browning

Rick Browning back in May.
(Photo: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

Rick Browning, the veteran architect and urban planner that was hired back in May to lead a high-profile bike project, is no longer working for the City of Portland.

“I was told by PBOT management I made certain unspecified staff members ‘uncomfortable’ and that I didn’t fit in. I did not quit. I was fired and given one day to leave.”
— Rick Browning

Word that he was leaving his position leaked out of the bureau of transportation on Tuesday. The City hasn’t released a statement yet, but we confirmed our initial tip and can say with certainty that Browning is no longer employed by the City of Portland.

Browning lasted just over eight months in his position. With an annual salary of $80-90,000, he was hired as a Capital Project Manager. According to the job description, his initial focus was supposed to be on PBOT’s “Central City Multi-Modal Safety project”. That project is meant to improve biking and walking access downtown and establish a network of protected lanes. However, despite winning a $6 million federal grant three years ago the project has yet to break ground. PBOT’s latest promise is that the public process won’t start until this summer.

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While waiting for that project to materialize, PBOT had Browning working on other things. He was listed as the manager of a project on West Burnside we wrote about just last week and a line in the Mayor’s current budget has Browning as the manager of a $4.5 million paving project on East Burnside.

Based on an interview Browning gave us when he was hired, it’s clear he was looking forward to working on the downtown bikeway project. He said his goal was to make downtown a nice place to ride for people currently too afraid to give it a try (an urgent need with bikeshare coming soon). Browning said he was inspired by Janette Sadik-Khan, the former director of New York City’s transportation department. After hearing her speak in Seattle, Browning said her work was “transformative.” “If we can do that here, I think that’d be fantastic.”

The city won’t comment on personnel matters, so it’s unclear why Browning is suddenly gone before the project he was hired to do ever even got started.

UPDATE, 2/12 at 8:23 am: Browning says he was fired. Here’s what he told us via email last night:

“I was told by PBOT management I made certain unspecified staff members “uncomfortable” and that I didn’t fit in. I did not quit. I was fired and given one day to leave.

Disappointed. But wish PBOT and the project well.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

Is anyone minding the store at PBOT?

dwk
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dwk

The city leadership from top to bottom is a disgrace.
Yet Amanda Fritz will be unopposed, Wheeler will be the next in line, the next in the old school network, nothing really changes.
The last 5 years were a huge waste in this city, boom times with no one in charge. Things are not looking good for the next 5 years.
You would think there would be people clamoring to run this city, yet no one seems to care……
One of the best cities in the country with some nagging problems and so much potential and no one with any real vision wants to step up?

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

Wow. I admit it: I’m really curious to know what happened. The City isn’t famous for recruiting top talent, and in my experience, it was always infamous for not being able to retain it.

Todd Hudson
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Todd Hudson

“a line in the Mayor’s current budget has Browning as the manager of a $4.5 million paving project on East Burnside.”

You mean the paving project east of 82nd, where they ground down the old pavement, over two months ago, and didn’t finish the project? It’s been stalled for so long that they re-striped the ground-down pavement. No bike lanes though, and lots of huge holes all over.

You know your workplace is hilariously dysfunctional when well-paid project managers won’t even stick around for a full year.

ethan
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ethan

Gets hired to work on a bike project. Spends all of his time working on general road projects and then bails before the bike project even starts. A very sarcastic round of applause all around for PBOT and Browning.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Well let us all wait until more facts come in. It could be a million reasons to leave so quickly from a job…

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

I wonder if he got an inkling that Wheeler isn’t going to be bike-friendly & decided to bail now. I hope not.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

They ground off 52nd between Woodstock and Steele, which was in good shape and with new bike lanes, and let it lie for a while. Now repaving seems to have begun. In my view the whole process was unnecessary.

Meanwhile, when riding from the Hawthorne Bridge onto SW main what few fillings I have left get severely rattled. Horrible paving and has been so for a long while. Why was nothing done there?

Blame Novick.

Then blame Treat.

They’re the ones responsible.

soren
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“In May 2015, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray made a surprise announcement that a protected bike lane would be on 2nd Avenue in time for the bike share launch. Four months later, a half-mile bidirectional bike lane was on the ground, complete with bike signals.

The lack of progress on this project is shameful.

PBOT Insider.
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PBOT Insider.

Steve Szigethy was hired this week from the PDC to take over as Capital Project Manager III title. The same title as Rick Browning.

Beeblebrox
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Beeblebrox

No. That’s just a regular maintenance project. He was managing an upcoming repaving of E Burnside from 20th to 32nd or so.

Buzz
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Buzz

I’d leave too if I was hired to do a bike infra project and then got stuck with a bunch of paving projects instead.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

As of 12 February S. E. 52nd between Woodstock and Steele has been completely repaved and restriped.

Even the bike lanes are back.

Looks to be worth riding.

Dan Packard
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Dan Packard

Browning was an excellent advocate for bicycle issues in the 1990’s while serving on Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.