Harvest Century September 22nd

Oregon Transportation Commission offers Kris Strickler job as next ODOT Director

Posted by on September 10th, 2019 at 5:42 pm

Kris Strickler

“This move signals more of the failed status quo by the OTC and is a huge
— The Street Trust

The Oregon Transportation Commission has offered the job of leading the Oregon Department of Transportation to someone who already works there: Kris Strickler.

Strickler is currently ODOT’s Highway Division Manager and — if he accepts the offer and is ultimately approved by the Oregon Senate — he’ll oversee an agency with a $3.8 billion budget and 4,500 employees.

The non-profit Street Trust, one of several organizations who was watching this appointment closely and was part of a stakeholder group that heard presentations from Strickler and two other final candidates, published a letter today (PDF) saying the OTC’s choice of Stricker, “signals more of the failed status quo… and is a huge disappointment.” They said Oregon needs to dramatically alter its approach to transportation in light of the safety, mobility, and environmental challenges we face. “There is nothing in Strickler’s experience that suggests he is prepared to lead this shift,” states their letter. “He offered virtually no substance in his presentation to a group of stakeholders who got to meet with three to candidates for the job.”


Big sale at Community Cycling Center

Strickler’s recent work experience includes being deputy director of the Columbia River Crossing project for the Washington Department of Transportation. That project burned through nearly $200 million in planning and failed spectacularly in 2014. Learn more about Strickler’s career via his resume (PDF, pasted below).


In a statement this afternoon, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said, “Kris has made a big impact on ODOT in his short tenure at the agency. He has driven the agency’s vision for how to address the complex mobility needs of our region and brings strong interstate partnerships to bear. He’s the right person to help ODOT continue its transformation, and I am looking forward to his continued and expanded leadership.”

For his part, Strickler said he plans to accept the offer and looks forward to implementing the $5.3 billion transportation spending package passed by the legislature in 2017. “I’m eager to lead the agency in this dramatic time of growth in our state and to work to modernize our transportation network, diversify the department’s workforce, and bring innovative solutions to achieve Oregon’s transportation, environmental and economic goals,” he said.

ODOT released this background video about Strickler today…

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

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    B. Carfree September 10, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Oh good lord. Can someone please give ODOnT and the OTC calendars that highlight the fact that this is 2019, not 1959?

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    Granpa September 10, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Oregon invested over 200 million on his education, one can’t expect the state to walk away from that

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    soren September 10, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Zombie CRC coming to Portland political theaters in 2020!

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    Mike Quigley September 11, 2019 at 5:30 am

    This appointment was already decided over a week ago, at least. Surveyors have been out marking the Rose Quarter area for that long.

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    Peter W September 11, 2019 at 5:37 am

    > ” He has driven the agency’s vision for how to address the complex mobility needs of our region and brings strong interstate partnerships to bear.”

    Hmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if “strong interstate partnerships” who want the CRZombie resurrected had something to do with Strickler’s appointment.

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    Peter W September 11, 2019 at 5:46 am

    … Also can we talk about that weird ODOT propaganda vid for a second?

    At 0:51 some old white guy makes an unsubstantiated claim that “undoubtedly” the CRC will be the biggest thing on Strickler’s todo list, and then at 1:08 Strickler says he would “approach the problem differently now”, followed by laying out “what we know” consisting of… the same arguments they used for the CRC the first time around, and concludes with the bold assertion that “focusing on the knowns” is a “good recipe”.

    (For another $200 million disaster, presumably.)

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      Toby Keith September 11, 2019 at 5:14 pm

      Is the ageist and racist comment really necessary?

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        9watts September 11, 2019 at 9:35 pm

        It doesn’t work that way, Toby.
        Old white guys are (almost) always in charge – maybe you’ve noticed?
        So it really isn’t ageist or racist to point this out.

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          Middle of the Road Guy September 12, 2019 at 12:09 am

          It does work that way. Progressives simply don’t like it when their own arguments are used against them, exposing how false they sometimes are.

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            9watts September 12, 2019 at 7:46 am

            You never seem to tire of showing progressives to be frauds, blithely unaware that their arguments can be turned upside down. Or imagining yourself to be showing us what we are unable to comprehend.
            The chief problem with that smug inversion is that most arguments (or at least the ones you like to flag here in the comments) aren’t symmetrical in the way you seem to think they are. Inequality, power, racism, violence all combine in particular ways and achieve particular effects… But they don’t combine in those ways if you invert them, swap an ‘old white guy’ for a ‘young black gal,’ for instance.

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    J_R September 11, 2019 at 6:46 am

    A replacement of the I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver is inevitable. The existing bridges are vulnerable to earthquakes, the lift span causes delays for both river traffic and surface vehicles, and I-5 lacks shoulders, which really messes things up in the event of crashes including diversion to local streets.

    For those who didn’t like the CRC project, you’ll be really unhappy with the next version. I predict that it will cost as much as the CRC project but it will lack light rail, the bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be minimal (similar to I-205), and will be focused on moving auto traffic to the detriment of other modes. And it will have little federal money and rely more on state-issued bonds to be paid by higher ODOT and Washington gas taxes/fees (including diversion from revenue currently shared with cities and counties) and by tolls.

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      Douglas K. September 11, 2019 at 7:57 am

      I’m fine with a new “freeway only” I-5 crossing as long as it (a) doesn’t remove the current bridges, (b) doesn’t increase the number of freeway lanes, and (c) doesn’t waste $500 million on an overbuilt Hayden Island freeway interchange in the hope of sparking a few million dollars of new development there.

      Rehabbing the two existing Interstate Bridge spans is only a bit more expensive than removing them. If we clear freeway traffic off of those bridges, we can use them for light rail, bike crossing, and a couple more automobile lanes for arterial traffic.

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        J_R September 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

        Where would you locate this new freeway bridge? To the east of the current span, you interfere with Pearson Airpark and the flight path for PDX. To the west you interfere with downtown Vancouver. Where would it tie into the existing I-5 mainline? Would it connect with SR-14, which is really close to the river? Also keep in mind that part of the original CRC concept was to make a better path for the river traffic so the channel aligns better with the downstream railroad bridge. Where would the piers for the new bridge be located relative to the existing bridge?

        Those are some of the things the policy makers were wrestling with 12 or 15 years ago when the CRC project was just starting.

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          Chris I September 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

          There are numerous designs that can be located to the east without interfering with the flight path of either airport. And, honestly, Pearson is not that important. If we can save $500 million by closing it down, we should close it.

          As for the river channel, the big issue here is the misalignment of the much older rail bridge, and the I-5 bridges. ODOT should partner with BNSF to rebuild the rail bridge (3 or 4 track for capacity growth, and move the movable span so it aligns with the I-5 bridges. This would be a much cheaper way to resolve that problem.

          Keep the existing bridges for local traffic and transit, and build a much cheaper 6-lane I-5 bridge (with breakdown shoulders) just upstream of the existing bridges.

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            Fred September 11, 2019 at 12:19 pm

            Upgrade the Dirty 30 to interstate standards and then locate the new I-5 bridge in Scappoose.

            (It’s not such a crazy idea – look at the map.)

            The bridge can be 16 lanes wide and very tall, and not interfere with PDX or Pearson flight paths (you’re not gonna close Pearson so forget that idea).

            Re-purpose the existing I-5 bridge for local traffic with light rail, BRT and dedicated bike/ped lanes.

            Now there’s some fresh thinking, Mr. Strickler!

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              Chris I September 11, 2019 at 3:52 pm

              Upgrading HWY 30 sounds very expensive, but I would admit that keeping all of the Washginton to Washington County traffic west of the Willamette is an enticing idea…

              As for Pearson, I know that it is a historic airfield, but it has 143 flight operations per day and houses just 175 general aviation aircraft. An economic impact report lists the airport as providing just 600 jobs in the area. That’s 600 jobs for 140 acres of prime real estate. That’s horrible land use, and not a very good reason to make the CRC $1-2 billion more expensive than it should be. The air traffic from Pearson could be easily absorbed into any of the other local small airports: Troutdale (288 daily ops), Grove Field (27 daily ops), Scappoose Airpark (206 daily ops).

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          Douglas K. September 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm

          “Where would you locate this new freeway bridge?”

          Just west of the Interstate Bridge. No impact on downtown Vancouver except for the loss of a freeway on-ramp on Washington Street; Washington Street traffic would continue to cross the river on the old bridge.

          “Where would it tie into the existing I-5 mainline? Would it connect with SR-14, which is really close to the river?”

          Rebuild the interchange with I-5 and SR 14 right where the existing interchange is, but with the freeway going above the railroad line rather than beneath it. It would tie into the existing freeway roughly at E 6th Street to the north, and on Hayden Island on the south (perhaps at the cost pf a few chain restaurants just west of the freeway). Close the freeway interchange on Hayden Island.

          Also, extend MAX north onto Hayden Island via a new arterial/transit/bike bridge from Marine Drive to Center Avenue, connecting Marine Drive to Vancouver via the old bridge. That will provide access to Hayden Island from Portland.

          “Where would the piers for the new bridge be located relative to the existing bridge?”

          Line them up with the existing piers. Line up a drawbridge on the new bridge to match the drawbridge on the existing bridge, but much higher above the river, so we need no more than a couple bridge lifts per month.

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        maxD September 11, 2019 at 10:51 am

        I think rebuilding the existing bridges makes the most sense, too. For this to be done with massive reconstruction of the interchanges at either end of the bridge, the new bridges will need a lift span to accommodate river-based industry. To eliminate the vast majority of the bridge lifts, the railroad bridge will need to be rebuilt- this is also good since it is in worse shape than the freeway bridges. Rebuilding that bridge creates the opportunity for a dedicated passenger rail line over the river that can support future high speed rail plus a spot for light rail. IMO, light rail doesn’t belong on the highway bridge anyway.

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      9watts September 11, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      J_R: …inevitable. The existing bridges are vulnerable…

      Civilization is vulnerable… to climate change.
      We don’t need anymore small-bore approaches to these matters.
      Focusing millions (billions) on a tiddlywinks project while the future habitability of the planet is floating away on melting sea ice is folly.
      Who are these clowns?!

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    Roberta M Robles September 11, 2019 at 7:34 am

    This must be the slow long revenge Kate Brown was thinking of.

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    X September 11, 2019 at 7:37 am

    ODOT stays in its lane.

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    Gary B September 11, 2019 at 8:07 am

    “I’m eager to… diversify the department’s workforce” he says, without the slightest awareness of irony.

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    Dave September 11, 2019 at 10:23 am

    I live in a part of Vancouver affected by a project–SR500–that he helped push along. If someone is not inside of an automobile, Mr. Strickler has no regard for your life whatsoever.
    This is a boneheaded hire, similar to hiring your neighbor’s kid who just started sax lessons when you could have had Wayne Shorter for the same pay scale.

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    GlowBoy September 11, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Pretty clear where ODOT’s headed, isn’t it?

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    Buzz September 11, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Someone should clue ODOT in that engineers rarely make good managers and administrators.

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      bikeninja September 11, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Not true at all, the best leaders of manufacturing companies, public utilities and technically oriented government bureaus are almost always engineers in the same way that great football coaches usually played football. The trick is to have an engineer with talents in managing people and public outcomes. The gold standard is an engineer with an education and experience in public administration in addition to engineering.

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    Jim Lee September 11, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    ODOT stays in its lane.Recommended 3


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    Johnny Bye Carter September 11, 2019 at 3:36 pm
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      GlowBoy September 12, 2019 at 9:20 am

      I would disagree that engineers rarely make good managers, at least compared with people who’ve worked up through any other career path. Bikeninja is correct to point out that lots of great managers and executives worked their way up from engineering roles.

      The Peter Principle dictates that few people, period, are actually good managers. It doesn’t single out engineers.

      My concern with this appointee isn’t his engineering background. It’s his highway background.

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    Johnny Bye Carter September 11, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    “looks forward to implementing the $5.3 billion transportation spending package”

    Looks forward to having his job duties already outlined for him so he can sit back and watch contractors do what they’re told.

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      Middle of the Road Guy September 12, 2019 at 12:12 am

      That’s kind of how Program and Project management works.

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    9watts September 11, 2019 at 9:32 pm


    Johnny Bye Carter
    “looks forward to implementing the $5.3 billion transportation spending package”Looks forward to having his job duties already outlined for him so he can sit back and watch contractors fail to do what they’re told.Recommended 0

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