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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)

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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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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54 Comments
  • Avatar
    9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:14 am

    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.

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      9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:18 am

      I’ve been looking for this photo for years – google delivered:
      https://bikeportland.org/2011/08/16/a-look-back-into-oregon-bike-history-57768

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      Joseph E July 26, 2017 at 10:50 am

      New staff at the Los Angeles DOT since the mid-2000’s have made a big difference in getting bus and bike lanes onto the streets. Before, politicians were often told that it was impossible to add pedestrian, bike and transit infrastructure, because the old-guard was focused on motor vehicle speed and “level of service”. But in the last decade there have been big changes due to efforts from staff in the department.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      change has to come from top and bottom. Doesn’t have to be either/or.

      And often — at least in a healthy organizational culture — change from the bottom can impact the top.

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    Joseph E July 26, 2017 at 10:50 am

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

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    GlowBoy July 26, 2017 at 10:54 am

    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.

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      9watts July 26, 2017 at 10:57 am

      I want to be as optimistic as you. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve been hearing promising noises from ODOT (getting out of silos/Matt Garrett) for as long as I’ve been reading bikeportland. So far I’ve not been impressed.

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        Middle of the Road Guy July 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm

        I was studying this in the early 90’s and everyone thought it was the answer and a sure thing.

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      B. Carfree July 26, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      Let’s try to not mention “fresh blood flowing” and ODOT together.

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    Kittens July 26, 2017 at 11:03 am

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

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      Grant July 26, 2017 at 11:15 am

      The rest of the job title, Professional Engineer 1, might provide you with a clue.

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        Dave July 28, 2017 at 7:39 am

        Gosh, I would hope not! Seriously, 40 years of living in the Portland/Vancouver metro area and cycling in all major Northwestern cities have convinced me beyond any doubt that traffic engineers in OR and WA are almost all serious psychedelic drug abusers.
        I see many intersections that need truthful labeling, signage like “brought to you by psylosibin.”

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      Chris I July 26, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Civil engineering BS. Get an entry-level job, experience, a graduate degree in Civil Engineering or some kind of MBA. Work your way up. It’s long, and involves a lot of math and cubicle time…

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        Kittens July 26, 2017 at 12:04 pm

        Now i know why we get what we got.

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          9watts July 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm

          And with all those high paid engineers we still get the Eddyville Bypass fiasco that cost taxpayers, what, a cool $220 million more than originally budgeted?
          http://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-highway-20-open-over-budget/

          Oh and it still isn’t done…
          http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/summer-work-to-cause-delays-on-highway/article_3ea29f5c-a787-5a71-8111-d7f0ddb04254.html

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            Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm

            …all those high paid engineers …

            How do you feel about wealth distribution in our society, is it a problem? If so, do you feel that the problem lies with the middle third of wage earners, like those proverbial engineers? Or maybe I’m misreading your intent of calling them out that way? (_again_, today! 🙂 )

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              9watts July 26, 2017 at 2:47 pm

              “How do you feel about wealth distribution in our society, is it a problem?”

              Yes, definitely.

              “If so, do you feel that the problem lies with the middle third of wage earners, like those proverbial engineers?”

              My hunch would be that the full package of what a senior ODOT engineer is paid and receives in benefits and pension (haven’t looked it up, I’ll admit) is poorly matched to the value we as a society are getting from their work. Starting XX years ago we need to be reducing highway miles, not building more we can’t seem to find the funds to maintain.

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                Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 7:52 pm

                [argh; my ‘puter ate my first try]

                I’m reminded of The Draft, back in my youth, and how some people demeaned those who wouldn’t evade it, and some ridiculed – even assaulted – returning troops for their service. Now, you may assume that I did not favor the Vietnam War, and I will respect your opinion that the marginal value of new ODOT paving may be negative, but my concern here is the ethics of calling out – demeaning – individuals who are part of an organization far beyond their personal influence.

                So, if one of those ODOT engineers did decide to sacrifice her career and all it supported (charity, family, old age), and especially if her actions succeeded in gaining widespread attention and resulted in changes in the ODOT hegemony, I would be favorably impressed and supportive. But that’s different than me suggesting to her, or even to all the engineers there, that they should all do that, or that they are worthless because of who signs their paychecks.

                ODOT itself is only a piece of that hegemony, and maybe not even Matthew Garrett himself could swing it around to where either you or I think it should be (at least not without getting himself axed, with a resulting pendulum swing back to even worse policies). Is it productive in that case for me to call out ODOT engineers over ODOT policies? Is it ethical for me to do that? That’s rhetorical, I don’t have an answer, there are degrees of “calling out” just like there are degrees of responsibility, and I recognize that you or others may feel differently than I do, but I do think that the-powers-that-be, the ones who pull Garrett’s strings, would support a divide and conquer strategy among their detractors.

                By the way, and for what it’s worth as a lesson, many Vietnam vets were highly effective at anti-war efforts.

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                9watts July 26, 2017 at 8:24 pm

                Since we’re reaching back to the Sixties here, how about a little Mario Savio?

                I’ve worked in bureaucracies and interacted with bureaucracies and sat on citizen committees charged with pushing back on bureaucratic excesses, and definitely have come away from those experiences with my own biases. But at the end of the day/week/month/year/decade/century, I also think we can and must hold our ODOT to a *much* higher standard than it seems to be holding itself. If Sweden’s equivalent to ODOT can come up with Vision Zero, show leadership, creativity, succeed by any standard we might care to apply, why can’t our agency at least spend the money they get from us wisely, have something to show for it by their own damn metrics*?

                My point about salaries and the derivative societal benefit wasn’t necessarily meant as a slam on the individual engineers as a critique of the system that produces this thoroughgoing waste – of people, of money, of asphalt and concrete and steel and equipment. The engineers’ salaries were just a touchstone. I’d be delighted to learn that my impressions of ODOT, formed over a number of years through bikeportland stories and other reports and experiences, were somehow incomplete, that they in fact are doing wonderful things all over the place and that I somehow only was made aware of the mistakes. But until someone shows me the side-of-ODOT-I’ve not seen I’m going to remain highly suspicious.

                *fatality-free days, anyone?

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                Middle of the Road Guy July 27, 2017 at 1:47 pm

                One could make the same argument about teachers.

                Begs the question…how much should ODOT employees be paid, then?

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                9watts July 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

                I don’t mind if they are paid well; what I mind is that their institution, the marching orders they receive (and probably also issue) are not solving real problems but saddling us with additional ones. No accountability, little improvement as measured by their own metrics, never mind ones that are used by others which strike some of us as considerably more apt.

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            J_R July 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm

            It is really difficult to correctly anticipate the underground work needed to build roads and, especially, bridges. A certain amount can be learned from examining the ground surface and from clues provided by terrain and from subsurface radar imaging, but one really can’t tell what’s there until you open things up. As I understand it, most of the cost overruns from the project were related to subsurface conditions.

            I went to my dentist a few years back for a crown replacement. He removed the old crown and determined I would need a root canal. It turns out a root canal was inadequate. I had to have the tooth removed. I didn’t blame the dentist. It just goes to show that one cannot always tell the extent of the problems from surface examination.

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              9watts July 26, 2017 at 2:48 pm

              “It is really difficult…”

              Yes, I know. Which is one of many reasons the project should never have been started. There was nothing wrong with the highway as it was before we spent $355M on straightening it, that some speed limits and enforcement couldn’t have solved. The rationale for why that project got funded was always very flimsy in my reading of the tea leaves.

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                Eric Leifsdad July 27, 2017 at 9:18 am

                It is a challenge for most engineers to question whether the big complicated thing needs to be built, especially where that question becomes political.

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              granpa July 26, 2017 at 5:45 pm

              Any notion that engineers are paid at stratospheric levels is misplaced. These are people who went to college, got training in a field that is valued by society and are paid at that value, probably between 75 and 140K per year depending on experience. That may be a lot to someone who’s employment is knitting sweaters for public art, but these are not rich people. That is middle and upper middle class and that affords them to make their house payments, plan for retirement and lead a comfortable life. If that is hate worthy go ahead on.
              Regarding the Pioneer Mt. Eddyville; the failed project was not designed by ODOT public servants, it was a design/build project so the CONTRACTOR is the designer, not the public agency. Clearly ODOT failed in its oversight, but it was our sacred Private Sector who logged right-of-way to right-of-way to profit from the timber even in areas that were not slated for construction. It was the contractor who failed to perform due diligence regarding the landslide potential (geotechnical engineering) on an area that is mapped and known to be in movement, so know of what you speak before damning those in proximity to the event.
              Regarding the geology, underground characteristics can be known. Instruments that measure earth movement to the centimeter can and are now installed all over the project, borings to considerable depth are extracted and read to identify faults and slides. With that information steps are taken to address the causes of the slide. On the Eddyville project more than 1500 horizontal drains have been drilled into the mountainside to remove water that is both weight and lubricant that helps move landslides. Gigantic piles of rock and earth have been used to build buttresses that counter the movement of the slides. The new road is built and it has eliminated a section of roadway that was a frequent killer of motorists.
              This zeitgeist of this blog might think that motorists deaths are simply justice (haters got to hate) but each is a tragedy on multiple levels. Beside the families who lose loved ones, consider how cleaning up after fatality accidents burn into the heart of ODOT maintenance staff. A guy who puts in 30 years has seen a lot and is pretty burned out. The new road not only straightens out some man-killing curves, it strengthens the resiliency of the transportation system. Hwy 20 is the main route between the Valley and the coast. A Cascadian subduction zone event will collapse the old road in several places. The new segment is built to remain functional after an earthquake. Having access to and an escape route from a disaster area is kinda important.
              The old route, a narrow, shady noodle of a road squeezed between sandstone road cuts and the Yaquina River remains in place. Now it serves the residents who live there and it is quiet and isolated; a perfect place to ride a bicycle. In fact that whole area is beautiful and isolated. Find Summit, Nashville, Harlan and Elk City on your maps and see if you couldn’t have a good bike ride out there.

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                9watts July 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm

                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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                Chris I July 27, 2017 at 9:21 am

                The tightest curves had numerous warnings (flashing lights, rumble strips). Most drivers were able to drive this stretch safely. If ODOT were smarter with our tax dollars, they would have designed shicanes, roundabouts, or other devices that would force people to slow down. Speed cameras are even an option, now. It may seem harsh, but I find it hard to shed tears for people that drive dangerously and get killed. I sincerely feel sorry for their victims, the occupants of vehicles or pedestrians that they kill along the way.

                But no, the agency is set up for big projects. The history of ODOT, and of DOTs in the US in general, is making roads “safer” by reducing curve radii, widening the road, and then increasing the speed limits. Does this make us safer? How much of a reduction in fatalities have we seen on that stretch of HWY 20, since the project was completed?

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                9watts July 27, 2017 at 9:24 am

                “How much of a reduction in fatalities have we seen on that stretch of HWY 20, since the project was completed?”

                It is still not completed.

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                psyfalcon July 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm

                Chris I,

                Chicanes? On a Freight route?

                There should be fewer deaths on that new section, even if speeds are higher. There are fewer places to crash and bike riders have the old road to ride. Each crash might be worse, but interstates, with higher speeds still, are usually safer than the narrow roads they bypassed.

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                Chris I July 28, 2017 at 7:36 am

                Yes, chicanes. They use them on approaches to roundabouts, and they are compatible with “freight”.

                The bypass is still a 2-lane road (with some passing lanes). It is not built to interstate standards, and still has the risk of crossover collisions, which will now be deadlier because the average speeds will be higher.

                ODOT will have spent half a billion dollars by the time this project is done. Think what that money could do to save lives in east Portland, where dozens of pedestrians and cyclists are killed each year. How many people die on HWY 20 each year?

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            Anne July 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm

            The problem with this fiasco wasn’t ODOT engineers…there weren’t any on the job. It was all done outside the agency as required by the state legislature.

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              9watts July 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm

              That isn’t quite true. It was an ODOT project, just like repaving 101 was an ODOT project, and when the contractor skipped out on repaving the shoulder ODOT signed off on it. Etc.

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                Gary Obery July 26, 2017 at 7:05 pm

                The problem with Eddyville wasn’t the contractors, it was the engineering which was done entirely outside ODOT I believe. I think Eddyville was a design/build project and I think the problems started with bad geotech engineering from the very beginning, all outside ODOT.

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                9watts July 27, 2017 at 9:36 am

                “it was the engineering which was done entirely outside ODOT I believe.”

                This doesn’t pass the laugh test. This was an ODOT project from the get-go. Who they hire, how much they choose to outsource, when they throw in the towel is hardly an excuse. If this logic obtained, accountability would be impossible and we couldn’t accomplish anything. What are due diligence, insurance, RFQ fr if not protecting the taxpayer in situations like this? Why are we (always) left holding the bag?

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            Middle of the Road Guy July 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm

            That’s almost as bad as CoverOregon! At least we got a road out of this one…

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            paikiala July 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

            Define ‘high paid’.
            If you look around and compare salaries, large cities typically out bid state agencies for staff.

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              9watts July 26, 2017 at 5:37 pm

              Alright, so I looked up ODOT salaries in Salem HQ. I found for a Transportation Engineer $73-$80K/yr, and for a Principal CTO $179-$194K/yr. I got the feeling that the salaries I was seeing were perhaps the open positions rather than the full range since I only found that one engineer position.
              https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Oregon-Department-of-Transportation-Salem-Salaries-EI_IE42940.0,35_IL.36,41_IM750_IP4.htm

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              SE Rider July 27, 2017 at 8:45 am

              Definitely true. My friend who was formerly with ODOT just took a job with PBOT for almost 1/3rd more money. He’s doing pretty much the same job.
              And they still can’t afford to live in an “inner” neighborhood in Portland.

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          Chris I July 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

          What kind of educational background would you like to see for this kind of position?

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          • Adam
            Adam July 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm

            Some sort of sociology requirement would be nice. What are cities, if not massive continuous social experiments?

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              Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 1:42 pm

              Once upon a time, architects were the masters of building, including cities.

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                Chris I July 26, 2017 at 2:47 pm

                And if you want things to stay up when you build them, you need engineers. Architects rarely have more than a basic background in math and physics.

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                Alan 1.0 July 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm

                I said “once upon a time.”

                Architects routinely hire engineers for the specific function you mention.

                Many architects (a minority, but still much higher than the general population) also maintain an engineer’s stamp, even these days. They’ll hire engineers on occasion, too.

                Architects routinely – nearly manditorily! – receive exposure like Adam mentions, not under the rubric of “sociology” but as art and art history.

                If you’re saying that architects today could use more education in structures, that’s fine, no argument from me, but I’d still rather see urban design done by real architects, in the historic sense of the profession, than by what are now called developers and urban planners. (And if any of you urban planners and developers are worried about those words, I just hope that you have the background in engineering *and* art to back up your plans.)

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                Eric Leifsdad July 27, 2017 at 9:23 am

                Robert Moses, master of disaster.

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              Bald One July 26, 2017 at 1:59 pm

              For ODOT, cities are just an obstacle through which to build a roadway to get farm commodities to rail and port terminals.

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              Paul H, P.E. July 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

              Any accredited engineering program will have non-engineering requirements.

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          Paul H, P.E. July 27, 2017 at 10:58 am

          What on earth does this mean?

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        J_R July 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm

        In addition, you’ll need to pass two 8-hour exams: Engineering Fundamentals and Professional Engineer Exam from the state’s licensing agency.

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          paikiala July 26, 2017 at 3:59 pm

          Then for some states there is an additional half day test.
          California – seismic
          Alaska – cold regions

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    David Hampsten July 26, 2017 at 11:08 am

    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.

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    GlowBoy July 26, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    9watts
    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.

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      9watts July 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      I can see that. Yes.

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    Mike Quigley July 27, 2017 at 5:38 am

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

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe July 29, 2017 at 10:40 pm

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

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