Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Matt Garrett has resigned from ODOT

Posted by on January 18th, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Matt Garrett in 2012.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Huge news from the State of Oregon today: ODOT Director Matt Garrett has resigned.

This is potentially – depending on his replacement – a massive development that could lead to a different culture in the automobile-centric agency.

Garrett was an embattled agency head who had been the subject of severe criticisms from electeds, advocates, and transportation reform leaders.

I’m out of town at the moment and unable to fully analyze and report on this. So for now, here’s the statement from ODOT:

Oregon Transportation Director Matthew Garrett announced today that he will resign as Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on or before June 30, 2019. “I’m eager to take the next few months to explore the opportunity to do something new,” Garrett remarked. “It was important to me to provide enough notice to allow time for a search to identify my replacement and provide a smooth transition to the new Director,” he added.

In his resignation letter to Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney, Garrett noted that he has been at ODOT for 22 years, the last 13 of which he has served as Director. Garrett has led the 4,700 person department under three Governors — Kate Brown, John Kitzhaber and Ted Kulongoski. Garrett is the longest continuously serving department of transportation director in the nation.

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Governor Brown thanked Garrett for his service: “Matt Garrett has driven Oregon forward through his steadfast commitment to improve transportation for his fellow Oregonians, both today and in the future. He has led ODOT with distinction, guiding the agency through the implementation of a historic transportation package, and we will reap the benefits for decades to come. I have deeply appreciated his thoughtful counsel and collaboration and want to extend my gratitude for his service to our state.”

“Matt has been a dedicated public servant in our state for almost a quarter of a century,” said Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney. “He is highly respected throughout Oregon and in transportation circles around the country. The Commission appreciates Matt’s many contributions to modernizing Oregon’s transportation system. We will work closely with him in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition from Matt to his successor.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission has the statutory authority to hire a new director for the department.

In his resignation letter, Garrett praised ODOT’s workforce, noting that he has led an organization that consistently delivers “exceptional service, infrastructure and innovation” to Oregonians. He also identified three achievements he is particularly proud of:

HB 2017, the 2017 transportation investment legislation, which he described as “historic and comprehensive;”

The “Area Commissions on Transportation,” which he characterized as “critical forums for statewide transportation planning;” and

The creation of the nation’s first Road Usage Charge, which will allow Oregon to eventually transition from a per gallon gas tax to a per mile fee to pay for Oregon roads, bridges and other infrastructure investments.

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

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  • B. Carfree January 18, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    I hope at least one elected official in Oregon will step up and recount the horrors that Mr. Garrett has visited upon our state. I hate the obligatory platitudes when an incompetent administrator or politician finally exits because it distorts reality.

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  • bikeninja January 18, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I have this horrible sinking feeling in my stomach that he will soon end up as some sort of transportation official in the Trump administration.He might want to be near others who will appreciate is regressive approach to transportation. I certainly hope that is not the case. If I had a magic wand I would cast a spell causing him to spend the rest of his days as a bike messenger in east portland.

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  • Mick O January 18, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    for some weird reason “Ding dong the witch is dead” is running through my head.

    Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The wicked witch
    Ding-dong, the wicked witch is dead

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  • Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
    Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike) January 18, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    His legacy will be forever connected to our rising transportation carbon emissions.

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    • B. Carfree January 18, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      As our drinking water becomes poisoned with toxic algae, we’ll remember him each and every summer. (Climate change, DRIVEN by car-centered transportation policies, is warming our streams and rivers; both Salem and Eugene had issues last summer with the promise of more to come.)

      The quality of his replacement will determine Governor Brown’s legacy, imo.

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      • Mike Quigley January 19, 2019 at 5:58 am

        And then there’s the report about the effects of vehicle exhaust on disappearing Monarch butterflies. Apparently, particulates in exhaust land on milkweed. Monarch caterpillars ingest them causing their immune systems to weaken and they become more susceptible to predators. Sad.

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      • soren January 20, 2019 at 1:55 pm

        Kate Brown has been a staunch champion of MOAR FREEWAYS . I expect nothing from her.

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  • nuovorecord January 18, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Take Windshiemer with you please.

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    • 9watts January 18, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      And Car Head. Don’t forget him.

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      • Toby Keith January 20, 2019 at 8:10 am

        And Ted Wheeler!

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        • 9watts January 20, 2019 at 8:14 am

          Didn’t realize Ted work for ODOT.

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          • Toby Keith January 20, 2019 at 11:16 am

            No obviously he doesn’t. But take him along anyway.

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  • Glenn the 2nd January 18, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Nice photo choice! Basically doing one of these
    …which sums it up pretty well.

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  • SD January 18, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Great opportunity for ODOT to be restructured to help Oregon meet climate goals.

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    • 9watts January 18, 2019 at 7:00 pm

      And this howler –
      “the nation’s first Road Usage Charge, which will allow Oregon to eventually transition from a per gallon gas tax to a per mile fee to pay for Oregon roads, bridges and other infrastructure investments.”

      If that is being trotted out as a crowning accomplishment I guess that is all we (in the state that invented the gas tax) need to know.

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      • 9watts January 18, 2019 at 7:04 pm

        Especially galling since under Garrett ODOT switched to debt financing (I believe that is the correct term), so that, like our neighbor to the North, we now don’t get much of anything useful from these taxes because a large and growing fraction of the receipts goes to pay the interest on the money loaned to expand our road network for even more autos, rather than to the things in the list quoted above:roads, bridges, and infrastructure.

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    • Doug Klotz January 21, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      I remember Matt telling the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee that ODOT doesn’t really want any trees on their highways (like 82nd or Powell).

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  • mark smith January 18, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Yeah, road usage tax based on what semi trucks do. Which is a GPS/Paper nightmare. Wow. That’s like the Trimet ap that was trashed after everyone told them it was dead.

    Let’s see how long before he gets picked up by any one of his buddy contractors.

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  • Racer X January 18, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    More likely he is taking some much earned time off …and to position himself securely for a private sector job connected to the CRC2. (The troops of consultants are already starting to marshal their forces and make alliances…cue the theme song from Game of Thrones! )

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  • Brendan January 18, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    Seems many are out for blood. I’d say it proves that even good intentioned people can become vengeful. Let’s not throw rocks, instead maybe we could contact our governor to appoint or advocate for a new director that has a more comprehensive view of transportation than just classic ICE vehicles?

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    • Another Engineer January 18, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      I’d rather have someone who is willing to step up and fund/execute jurisdictional transfers, that includes responsibility in the legislature to fund those items. I am all for the path of least resistance and would rather transfer jurisdiction of key biking areas/unsafe roadways to PBOT which is able to create actionable change on the ground sooner than waiting for ODOT to change. This would solve the additional issue of the friction of having to interact and get approval from multiple agencies.

      ODOT represents the whole state and those constituents on average would find the average BikePortlander extreme. PBOT represents the City of Portland and those constituents on average are more open to the average BikePortlander.

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    • SD January 19, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Maybe, both.

      Garrett was, at best, a person in a powerful leadership position who could have moved Oregon transportation in a positive direction, but completely failed. He is one of many, who think they will get a pass by maintaining the status quo and ignoring the negative impact that they have had on the climate. Kate Brown, state legislators and future ODOT leaders need to know that if transportation policy continues in its current direction they will be viewed as people in unique positions to do good who also failed when everyone was counting on them. Garrett’s list of “accomplishments” is only notable for his skill at fundraising for increased CO2 emissions, pollution and sprawl.

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    • X January 20, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      ICE? Maybe we can build the wall with that. Those. There’s a compromise for you.

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    • GlowBoy January 24, 2019 at 11:31 am

      “Out for blood”

      There’s a lot of anger here because Garrett has stood directly in the way of progress in trying to make things safer for cyclists, even in Portland proper. Couple recent examples:
      – ODOT’s recent attempt to remove the bike lanes from SE 26th at Powell (which ODOT manages) is part of an arm-twisting agreement they made with PBOT to allow the 20s bikeway to go through up the hill at 28th.
      – It’s also ODOT’s obstinance that continues to put cyclists on Barbur in peril, forced into the car lanes at the bridge crossings. Several possible solutions have this have been proposed, all with strong support from SW neighbors, always shot down by ODOT even though their own data show that the stretch of Barbur in question has massive excess car capacity.

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  • Granpa January 19, 2019 at 7:40 am

    ODOT manages tens of thousands of acres of real estate that are not under pavement. It is hopeful that his replacement will enable land management that sequesters carbon, facilitates habitat and expand roadside beauty.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 20, 2019 at 12:55 am

    Wow! One forgets how long BikePortland has been around…until there is a link to an early interview in a leader’s career.

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  • Barry Cochran January 20, 2019 at 8:45 am

    “*Driven* Oregon forward”…Appropriate choice of words from Gov. Brown, except for the “forward” part.

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  • X January 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Your point is well taken, as ever, but I would quibble with your word choice. For “leader” say ‘bureaucrat’ with no particular connotation of the word intended.

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  • maxD January 21, 2019 at 9:53 am

    ODOT maintenance crews successfully block the planting of trees on the sides of highways and in the medians. If you want to see trees planted, call ODOT and tell them you value trees along highways and want to see more- they really track that.

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    • Johnny Bye Carter January 22, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Trees fall onto roads and are considered hazards. ODOT wants less clutter and more open space for people to drive fast.

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  • Mark smith January 26, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Johnny Bye Carter
    Trees fall onto roads and are considered hazards. ODOT wants less clutter and more open space for people to drive fast.Recommended 0

    Cars in Oregon maim and kill. And yet, they keep adding Lanes.

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