The Oregon Dept of Transportation has put a fresh focus on clearing up traffic woes in the Portland metro area by forming a new Office of Urban Mobility and Mega Project Delivery.
“The creation of this office not only signals ODOT’s commitment to addressing congestion on all fronts, but signals our new way of doing business,” says Kris Strickler, ODOT director, in a statement. “The agency will enhance its efforts to grow beyond just a highway department into an organization focused on providing transportation options for all users, making decisions through the lens of social equity and ensuring equitable access to transportation choices and economic opportunities for communities and individuals across our state.”
From the outset and in the near-term, the new office will oversee the Interstate 5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project, the Interstate 205 Abernethy Bridge Project and develop a tolling and congestion pricing program for the region. As ODOT continues to plan for the future, the new office, announced in January, will play a key role in the shaping of the future of the Portland area’s transportation infrastructure efforts.
As part of the creation of the office, ODOT named three individuals to lead the effort. Brendan Finn was selected as the director. Finn most recently served as the transportation policy advisor for Gov. Kate Brown after spending 19 years at the City of Portland where he was chief of staff for Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversaw the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Finn starts March 1.
Della Mosier was named the office’s deputy director. With over 20 years of transportation experience, the last 10 in ODOT throughout the state, Mosier starts in her new role immediately and brings with her an engineering perspective. “Della brings an exceptional technical and project-focused background that will allow us to accomplish innovative things and expand our ability to manage the transportation system differently,” Strickler says.
Showing the importance ODOT is placing on creating a tolling system, the third member of the leadership team named to the new office is Lucinda Broussard, tolling program manager. She brings more than 20 years of tolling experience, leading tolling program efforts in both Georgia and Washington. Broussard starts with the office on Feb. 1.
The Rose Quarter project has already hit statewide snags even before starting with a variety of groups expressing concerns over expanding the freeway’s capacity. Those asking for more study on the project included those in local government and local school boards. Brown officially requested in December that ODOT pause work on the project and study it further.
While the Rose Quarter project has funding in place from a 2017 state bill, the work on the aging Abernethy Bridge south of Portland doesn’t have a clear-cut funding model, which could lead the state quickly into the world of tolls.
The new Office of Urban Mobility and Mega Project Delivery pushes ODOT into a new area of planning as the region grapples with the best way to ease the growing congestion. The state will likely push any project with a price tag above $100 million through the new office.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.