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Massive list of ODOT job openings is opportunity to change agency culture

Posted by on July 26th, 2017 at 9:28 am

OTC meeting in Salem-4.jpg

Get into the trenches to change the agency from the inside!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

One way to change the culture at an out-of-touch government agency is to fill its ranks with people who “get it”. In the case of the Oregon Department of Transportation, they need more staff with fresh perspectives on our state’s mobility problems and potential solutions.

If you’re a transportation professional — or have always dreamed of being one — now is a good time to take a look at ODOT jobs. With a statewide hiring freeze just lifted, the agency has a massive backlog of positions to fill.

Last week I received several emails from ODOT sources encouraging people who are “multimodal savvy” (a.k.a. those who think biking, walking and transit deserve respect and priority over single-occupancy motorized vehicles) to consider applying for a long list of job openings (see them below).

In addition to the backlog, ODOT must fill another 51 positions — 36 of them full-time equivalents — to keep up with new funding and programs passed in the new transportation bill. They have openings throughout the state (but mostly at the Salem mothership). The graphic below is a chart taken from the Fiscal Impact Statement (FIS) of House Bill 2017.

ODOT gets to hire 36 FTEs to handle the influx of hundreds of millions of dollars in new infrastructure and program funding.
(Graphic: Oregon Legislative Information Service. HB 2017 FIS)


The official State of Oregon jobs board currently lists about 100 positions at ODOT. I’ve posted a list of active transportation-oriented positions below:

— Rail & Public Transit Division – Public Transit Section
— Regional Transit Coordinator – Program Analyst 3
— Project Coordinator – Associate in Engineering 2
— Mobility and Construction Liaison – Civil Engineering Specialist 3
— Traffic Investigation & Projects Engineer – Professional Engineer 1
— Assistant District Manager – Principal Executive/Manager C
— Roadway Design Lead – Professional Engineer 2
— Senior Roadway Designer – Professional Engineer 1
— Survey/Right-of-Way Unit Manger – Principal Executive/Manager E
— Project Manager – Professional Engineer 2
— Transportation Maintenance Specialist 2 – Government Camp
— Metro Area East Manager – Principal Executive/ Manager F
— Assistant Project Manager – Professional Engineer 1
— Region 1 ITS/Traffic Engineer – Professional Engineer 2
— Project Coordinator – Associate in Engineering 2
— Office Coordinator – Administrative Specialist 1

Hopefully we’ll get some new blood at ODOT which will lead to a new way of thinking about transportation. I love all my friends at ODOT, but the agency is still struggling to adapt to the modern needs of Oregonians and to wean itself off of the automobile-focused paradigm that has dominated its projects and policies for far too long.

Please consider applying for these jobs and tell your friends to do the same. You can also follow @OregonDOTJobs on Twitter for the latest openings.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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Jim LabbeDaveChris Ipsyfalcon9watts Recent comment authors
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I hope your hopeful tone is apt.
“those who think biking, walking and transit deserve respect and priority over single-occupancy motorized vehicles) to consider applying for a long list of job openings”

But I always thought this sort of change had to come from the top, or at least be matched with support from the top. I have a hard time imagining the last hired to be the cohort to turn a large bureaucracy around.

“the agency is still struggling to adapt to the modern needs of Oregonians and to wean itself off of the automobile-focused paradigm that has dominated its projects and policies for far too long.”

That’s for sure!
The funny thing is in some ways ODOT may have been closer to that goal in the seventies than it appears to be today.

Joseph E
Joseph E

If we compare PBOT to ODOT, it’s clear that the staff matter.


No surprise there should be so many openings. Baby Boomers are retiring en masse. Millennials are already the largest generation in the work force — and they haven’t all even entered it yet. Every field is going through massive change in the makeup of its workers right now, with lots of fresh blood flowing in. ODOT can’t be an exception.

I took a transportation class from PSU a few years ago, and I was heartened to see that all the students I met got it: that we’re choking on our car infrastructure both locally and globally, and that we have to manage it better while making the alternatives more attractive. As engineering and planning students they were being given not only the vision, but the tools to make it reality, along with the drive to go out and do it.

And not just in Portland proper: i met students who were doing internships in places like Vancouver and Tigard, and they felt like they could make a bigger difference in the world by being in those places. I’m seeing the same thing in the Twin Cities: a new generation of city managers, councillors and engineers is infiltrating a lot of the first-ring suburbs (places like Richfield, Edina and Robbinsdale) and initiating big projects to remake the transportation and land-use landscape. I’m very excited to see so many young people coming out of school with a clear pro-urbanist, reduced-car vision, and already starting to make real change.

Circling back to ODOT: yes, at some level cultural change has to come from the top down. But it also happens from within. Agencies like ODOT affect our lives by thousands of small decisions made by line level workers. When we’ve been frustrated by ODOT’s stubbornness on Barbur or the failure of their vehicle detectors to notice bikes, those are often decisions that came from engineers or engineering managers, not from the top. Replace those folks with new blood and you will at least start to see change. And some of those people will work their way up the ladder quickly.


I have no idea what sort of educational or career path would lead one to become a senior roadway designer.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten

You’ll find that most of the openings are well outside of Portland, even outside of Salem & Eugene, in the more rural parts of the state. Great if you drive, but not so good for urban cyclists.


Thanks for that informative post, granpa.
I learned a lot.
But this: “The new road not only straightens out some man-killing curves”
I guess we may have to agree to disagree. Car Head tells us that we as drivers are entitled to go as fast as either the signs permit or as fast as we think we/our vehicles can handle. You (and plenty of folks at ODOT) seem to think that it is the taxpayer’s duty to sweep away the hurdles that might interfere with this entitlement to speed. But I take the opposite view. Speed is neither an entitlement nor a good way to keep people from killing themselves or each other.
your wrote: “This zeitgeist of this blog might think that motorists deaths are simply justice…”
I see motorist’s deaths as entirely avoidable, but not by straightening out curvy roads so people can go even faster. This is a fool’s errand, and anathema to how, for instance, Vision Zero would approach this challenge. No, let’s slow speeds down using methods and strategies that have proven to work. Offer
incentives and penalties to ensure compliance.
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I can guarantee you that the decisions to build the Eddyville fiasco, and to keep going once serious geology problems were uncovered, were not made by line level engineers making 80-120k, or even by first level engineering managers. In my many years in both the public and private sectors (including ODOT itself, many years ago) I’ve seen lots of large projects succeed, and I’ve seen a few spectacular failures.

In every failure, line level workers who discovered the problems tried to raise alarm bells and were ignored or overruled by project directors who decided they had to do the project a certain way and to a specific deadline, reality be damned.

You can blame engineers for bad low level decisions like a poorly designed intersection. That’s part of the point of this discussion. But for the big decisions that are wrong, the big fiascos, you have to blame the high level decision makers – who are sometimes engineeers by training, yes, but are no longer in an engineering role.

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley

You’ll get to change direction of ODOT, and join the most generous public employee retirement system in the nation. Go for it!

Jim Labbe
Jim Labbe

Important and useful information and perspectives in this article! Thanks for writing it.