Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s chief of staff has been hired by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Brendan Finn, who’s worked with Saltzman since 1999, will be Brown’s new transportation policy advisor.
According to a statement released a few minutes ago, Finn, “Will be responsible for policy regarding transportation infrastructure across Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the implementation of the transportation funding package passed in 2017.” That’s a pretty darn big portfolio. ODOT is a massive agency with about 4,500 employees and an annual budget of nearly $4 billion. The transportation package passed last session includes funding for $5.3 billion in projects and programs.
For the legions of safe streets advocates chomping at the bit for change at ODOT, this is interesting news.
Finn bikes daily to his job at City Hall and holds a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Portland State University. Finn isn’t widely known among BikePortland readers and doesn’t grace these pages very often because Commissioner Saltzman has never played a major role in transportation policy. Saltzman is best known to bike advocates for his unexpected gambit in 2010 to raise $1 million a year from utility fees to help pay for projects in the 2030 Bike Master Plan.
When Saltzman made a surprise visit to the Portland Bureau of Transportation Bicycle Advisory Committee to pitch the idea, he had the “avid cyclist” Finn by his side to give it more credibility.
In 2008 Finn made his own run for a seat on City Council and we cited it as a sign that City Hall was becoming even more bike friendly.
Last year Saltzman was handed the transportation bureau by Mayor Ted Wheeler, giving Finn another opportunity to leave his stamp on the issue. So far Saltzman has been supportive of PBOT initiatives like Vision Zero and Better Naito, but we never did see Finn go out of his way (publicly, at least) to flex his urban planning, bike-loving muscles.
In January we talked to Finn about the absymal state of bike parking in front of City Hall (he doesn’t use it himself because he got a bike stolen from there in 2001). He said, “I think it’s really important for us to have good bike parking because we want people to get here by all forms of transportation — especially active ones like cycling.” (Finn also said he’d look into the issue, but so far no changes have been made.)
Given the sorry state of affairs at ODOT right now, and with Governor Brown’s complete lack of attention to anything other than freight and freeways, having Finn inside the office can only make things better. Stay tuned.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Good luck Brendan!
My first piece of advice to the governor would be that Portland needs a new ODOT manager. We cannot keep expecting better results with the same tools and people. Establish Nacto guidelines as the standard for new projects across the state. And let’s use our roads to create senses of place for communities around Oregon, especially in rural oregon. No town is best served with a highway running through the middle of it.
Would rural towns exist if travelers weren’t stopping in and buying gear, food, and gas? My guess is no. And yes, I spend my weekends in those rural communities doing just that.
I echo sentiments from each of you.
Yes, Portland should have control over the orphaned highways running through it.
Yes, actually, rural towns are served by having a state highway running down their centers.
They manage to drop the speed limits on hwy 26 and 212 to 25mph, going through Sandy and Boring. People pass through, the community takes in revenue from stops at local businesses. The system works.
Having driven around most of Oregon, I think ODOT does it right, everywhere except cities over 20K population (i.e. Portland)
They would be much more successful if you didn’t only stop for gas and doritos. Leavenworth is a great example of a rural town that is super successful because it created a place people want to be. When you have fast highways going through the middle of a place it isn’t much of a place anyone wants to spend time in except for doritos and gas.
Not every place or town is deserving off all of my time or energy. Also, thanks for you deduction of Doritos and gas. It’s not like they make money from dudes on touring bikes. Haha! Get real my guy.
And if the town doesn’t want cars and trucks speeding through at 50mph, they lobby ODOT to reduce speeds. Then ODOT builds a bypass around the town to “reduce travel time”, and people stop frequenting those businesses.
“So far Saltzman has been supportive of PBOT initiatives like Vision Zero and Better Naito, but we never did see Finn go out of his way (publicly, at least) to flex his urban planning, bike-loving muscles.”
There have been several ‘surprise’ bike projects lately. Things like PBOT suddenly restriping that portion of Willamette without car parking after Saltzman told them to. Perhaps Finn may be flexing those bike-loving muscles after all?
Willamette happened because activists jumped on an opportunity and the community mobilized. City Hall and PBOT reacted and made the right move… They showed some moxie in doing so, but they were reactive and it wouldn’t have if we (the community) didn’t rise up.
I am sure Brendan will miss his morning commute along the Springwater Corridor Trail dodging falling fish dropped by prankster ospreys.