The Oregon Department of Transportation is bulking up to handle a future where the Portland region is an epicenter of highway megaprojects.
In an email (below) sent yesterday afternoon to all employees, ODOT Deputy Director Paul Mather announced the formation of the new Office of Urban Mobility & Mega Projects to be based in Portland. A search process for a manager of this office is just getting underway.
The move comes in response to House Bill 2017, the $5.3 billion transportation package passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017. That bill laid out funding for several projects in the Portland region (ODOT Region 1) and it defined “mega transportation projects” as those that, “cost at least $360 million to complete, that attract a high level of public attention or political interest because of substantial direct and indirect impacts on the community or environment or that require a high level of attention to manage the project successfully.” (The bill also established the Joint Interim Task Force On Mega Transportation Projects.)
Among the projects ODOT will focus on in this new office are expansions to I-5 and I-205, and an effort to re-kindle the Columbia River Crossing.
Here’s Mather’s official announcement:
ODOT staff, partners and stakeholders:
House Bill 2017 brings some great benefits to our organization and to the state’s transportation system. HB 2017 also brings great challenges. To complete key work the bill charges ODOT with undertaking, we need to hire more. We also need to actively coordinate with our stakeholders and contractors to help ensure on time and on budget performance.
The OTC [Oregon Transportation Commission] has been clear about the importance of the success of the projects in HB 2017 and has asked us to ensure we are organized for success. Many of the “mega” projects in HB 2017 are in the Portland metro area. The burden of managing those projects is falling heavily on Region 1. At times in our agency’s past, large efforts such as the State Radio Project, the Oregon Transportation Investment Act III State Bridge Program, and others have led us to create special organizational structures to handle a particular body of work.
It’s in that spirit that today I am announcing the formation of the Office of Urban Mobility & Mega Projects, which will be led by a manager we will hire through a search process that is just getting underway. The Urban Mobility and Mega Projects Manager will be located in Portland and report directly to the Highway Division Administrator.
The Urban Mobility and Mega Projects Office will be charged with development and delivery of a number of projects and programs, including:
- Rose Quarter
- I-205: Stafford Rd to Oregon City
- Tolling program
- Key agency liaison for the Interstate 5 bridge project
- Growing capacity to deliver future programs that may be on the horizon
We are making this move in conjunction with our Oregon Transportation Commission and especially its new chair, Robert Van Brocklin.
This change is also designed to ensure the success of Region 1 on maintenance, operational and other project delivery challenges in the region. It will be critical that the Urban Mobility and Mega Project Office and Region 1 regularly coordinate and work in harmony in the “one ODOT” spirit. Once the Manager is hired, we will further assess what positions the Office will need and refine how they will coordinate with Region 1 and other areas of the agency.
I firmly believe this move will provide an important structure and focus to help us deliver on important charges given to us by House Bill 2017 and help ODOT meet the expectations of the OTC.
ODOT Deputy Director
Note that the leader of this new office will report to the Highway Division Administrator, a position currently filled by Kris Strickler, who’s in line for the agency’s top job. As you can see in the ODOT org chart above, if Strickler moves up, next in line is McGregor Lynde. Lynde was formerly the Active Transportation Division manager. That position has been vacant for a few months but I just confirmed they’ve hired Jeff Flowers to fill it. Flowers had been in charge of the Program & Funding Services Unit within the Action Transportation Section.
In related news, the OTC discussed the appointment of a new ODOT director in a closed-door meeting this week. Sources say they’ll continue deliberations in a meeting next week when a decision will likely be made. Stay tuned.
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