Lynn Peterson

In a move that shows a strong commitment to walkable, bikeable communities, transit, and sustainability in general, Governor Inslee has appointed Lynn Peterson to succeed Paula Hammond as Secretary of Transportation.

Peterson has been Sustainable Communities and Transportation Advisor to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber since March 2011.  She began her career as an engineer for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 1988, and has worked in the greater Portland area since 1994: as a Travel Forecaster for Metro Regional Government, as a Transportation Advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon, a Strategic Planner for Trimet, 4 years with her own consulting firm, and as Chair of the Clackamas County Commission.

Peterson is very unlikely to support highway expansion over transit. She’s been a supporter of rail over road expansion in the past. This is great news for us, for our transit agencies, and for our climate.

2:15pm update: Looking a little deeper, there’s a lot to like here. In Peterson’s 2010 letter to the Columbia River Crossing Review Board as chair of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, she was carefully critical of the Columbia River Crossing project, with really solid comments that show clear support for light rail and pedestrian connections, and little support for highway growth. This is the approach I want to see to every highway project:

“Removing a bottleneck on the I-5 bridge and moving it to I-5 in the Central City is not a viable solution, and the region is forced to make additional difficult and unrealistic choices.”

Tolling I-205 (a parallel crossing to I-5 in the project) is a major theme here, and the strong support in the letter shows she’ll be committed to tolling I-90 as well. She also wrote that “evolving environmental expectations” mean that “mega-projects do not reflect the priorities of the communities we are elected to serve,” and disapproves of prioritizing the CRC project over all other regional concerns. That’s exactly the kind of approach Washington needs.

54 Replies to “Inslee Names Lynn Peterson to Head WSDOT”

  1. Thanks to all of the hard work that everyone did in November to help Inslee capture the Governer’s seat, Washington State transportation projects will evolve to better meet the needs of future commuters in our region.

    1. Assuming that battle is over, she could certainly help kill the Columbia River Crossing. We need her to.

      1. I just mean she could kill the big highway expansion, and we could actually target freight, passenger rail, bicycles, and light rail instead.

      2. I suspect she will move the CRC project forward, just not in the zillion-lane format that many in Fort Vancouver want, and with the LR component that they want removed included. After all, if you want LR in Fort Vancouver than moving the CRC forward is the way you are going to get it.

        But I’m encouraged that she is talking about tolling I-205, now if she would just move forward with early tolls on both I-5 and I-205 it would be perfect.

    2. I’m still waiting for someone (not on drugs) to come in, look at the numbers for the last 20 years and say “you spent what on light rail, and you have how many miles of track?”

      (Cost of Portland MAX, $3 Billion.
      Miles of track: 50 )

      1. Anti-urbanist parlor trick #1: a silly focus on “miles.” Norman does it too with his constant harping on Metro’s passenger-mile numbers. The implication is that the goal of planning and transit is to enable people to commute as far as possible.

        A better set of questions: for $3 billion, how many trips can we accommodate, and how much of the population can easily access them? In any city, you’ll get way better results on either of those questions from a halfway decent urban transit project than from $3 billion worth of interstate lane-miles.

      2. There is also the cost difference between tunneling through mud hills versus laying track on flood plains. One is more costly.

      3. I’m still waiting for the car-addicts to admit “We sacrificed how many American troops for oil?”

      4. @David L,

        I live in Vancouver so I see the flame wars over the CRC up close and personal.

        Just to be clear about my support for transit, I moved here in 1995 and immediately upon the completion of the Yellow Line started using the Delta Park TC to commute to downtown contracts and even out to Nike west of Beaverton. My car got stolen from the P’n’R lot about the time that the 99th Street TC opened in Vancouver, so I started using the C-Tran expresses, and did so on a three year contract at Nike which ended in December. (The police did recover the car which hadn’t been parted out except for the catalytic converter).

        As an I/T person I often had to work late enough that the C-Tran 105 had quit running when I got to downtown Portland on the Blue Line, so I’d have to take the Yellow Line to Delta Park, then the C-Tran #4 to downtown Vancouver then the #37 or #32 to the 99th Street TC to get the car and go home. That takes at at minimum an hour and a half.

        So I’m a genuine pro-rail transit supporter and advocate.

        However, I don’t see that bringing LRT to downtown Vancouver does make sense. If there were no forty foot deep, half mile wide river between the Expo Center and downtown Vancouver, of course, it would be a no-brainer: Vancouver is the second biggest city in the metro area.

        But there is that river which enormously increases the cost of any extension.

        More importantly, Vantuckians are actively hostile to the sort of urban renaissance that would be necessary for LRT to expand to serve the county more completely. And there’s no historic reserved rail right of way bisecting the desirable development potential between two major traffic arteries like in Washington County. Vancouver is shaped like a boomerang, so to serve most of the urban grown boundary there would have to be two lines, one along I-5 and one along Mill Plain.

        If only the MOuSe (Minimum Operable Segment) is completed, the numbers really just do not pencil out: there aren’t enough people in downtown Vancouver who would use the Max to work in Oregon. Now maybe the downtown area would be revitalized by MAX as the Pearl was at least in part revitalized by the streetcar.

        But $800 million is a lot to spend on a “maybe”.

        Sometimes when there was a long line for the #199 at the TC I would take the #105 which leaves three minutes earlier but goes through downtown Vancouver. I never saw more than twenty people get on any run of the bus in downtown Vancouver, and it runs on a 15 minute headway during the peak.

        That means that at most 150 to 200 people are boarding the express during the AM peak in the area to be served by Max. That’s only one Max train. Again, maybe downtown Vancouver will sprout a cluster of condos to fill up Max, but it’s a lot of money per passenger. And in all honesty, I doubt that the folks who currently take the #199 and #134 from 99th and Salmon Creek are going to drive to the new garage at McLaughlin and I-5 in order to stop thirteen times on the way to downtown.

        Especially if the C-Tran expresses are whizzing by the garage on their way to use a shiny new HOV lane to cross the river.

        Finally, in response to your rhetorical question about the $3 billion price tag for the existing MAX system. While I agree with your general point about transit versus lane miles, I’d like to point out that an early decision on the Blue Line has crippled the system: the decision to limit the stations to two car lengths instead of spending a little more initially along the Banfield and at Sunset and the Washington Park stations.

        I realize that it was probably made because the surface stations downtown barely fit a two-car train. So why have longer stations outside the CBD? It makes some sense, but it was short sighted.

        Even if the horrid bottleneck at the Steel Bridge and the two car stations downtown are bypassed by a subway through the Portland CBD someday, the existing stations along the Blue Line are forever going to limit the system’s capacity potential.

      5. Replying to myself.

        Just to be clear, I don’t favor the “no tolls bridge only” solutions that most Vantuckians want. They basically just want a shiny new bridge paid for by someone else.

        However, there is a real likelihood that the 1918 span will need retirement sometime in the next twenty years, so some sort of bridge replacement is in order, soon. It should be permanently tolled as were both the existing spans when they were built (I-205 was an anomaly because it was built in the days of unlimited Federal highway funds). A new eight lane, single deck bridge with 24 hour HOV lanes and a good bike/pedestrian facility would be “right sized”; no “slip lanes” between Hayden Island and Vancouver. The railroad bridge would need to have its swing span replaced by a center-channel lift at the same time. And some of the toll revenues should be dedicated to C-Tran express transit service.

        Since the addition of the HOV lane capacity would move more traffic across the river, congesting I-5 south of the bridge, at the same time as the bridge is replaced Oregon should improve access to and over Cornelius Pass for Washington State-Washington County access, bypassing downtown Portland and 26 West.

        I-205 should be tolled as well to prevent diversion, if Congress can be persuaded to allow congestion tolling.

      6. @Anandakos,

        If they ever get money to bore a MAX tunnel through downtown, I think there will be enough left over to lengthen boarding platforms along the rest of the blue line. The only two that would be slightly challenging are Gateway and Washington Park. For the vast majority, it would just involve a slight track realignment and a platform extension. Compared to the monumental task of boring a hole from Goose Hollow to the convention center, this problem is nothing.

        As for the CRC, I wonder how cost-effective it would be to build a 8-lane span upstream from the existing bridge, close the interchange at Hayden Island, and re purpose the newer of the two existing spans for light rail and pedestrian access. A short local access, transit, and pedestrian bridge could then connect Hayden Island to Marine Drive. The 1918 span could be demolished, and the newer span could be seismically upgraded. Why was this option not considered?

      7. St Petersburg, Russia, has a station that’s too short for all the metro cars. It’s only one station so I don’t know if something about its island location precluded a longer platform. Inside the railcars above the windows it says in large letters, to exit at that station you must be in one of the first seven cars.

      8. Chris,

        I think the designers considered an upstream location (it has much better alignment with I-5 in Clark County), but decided that the new Safeway store made it too expensive. Go figure that!

        And, now that the “other” Red Lion has burned, flattening the one just east of the existing bridge is probably off the table regardless of the Safeway.

        Also, I think the ramps between I-5 and SR14 were harder with the upstream alignment. There would be less room for the Peterson flight path.

        That said, uour idea of re-purposing the 1958 bridge is a great one; it’s too bad that the downstream (chosen) alignment precludes saving it as a transit/bike structure. I think that was considered as well.

        So far as the stations along I-84 Google Maps does make it look as if there is extra room to the east of Broadway (a pocket track) and 60th but not at 82nd. So I guess that means that Mike’s solution could be applied to Sunset, 82nd and Washington Park. But you certainly can’t do that at Gateway. The station might have to be grade separated from the buses (they go down a half floor and the station goes up a half floor). That would be a complex project but Tri-Met could manage it I expect.

        So, the stations are less of an issue than I thought.

  2. This is an interesting choice given Kitzhaber’s pro-CRC stance. Now that Oregon has just signed a $450 revolving line of credit for the project, banking on gas tax revenues that we don’t have:

    We need Washington to kill this thing. We all know that neither state has the money; hopefully WSDOT actually realizes this, instead of just sticking their heads in the sand, as those south of the river have done.

    1. Now is when you’d need to start a real group to kill it dead – to ensure that during this legislative session, there’s clear opposition, so that during the downtime between sessions DOT is soft on alternatives, and something else could get funding next year.

  3. Her position on CRC changed a bit after she left her County position and went to work for Governor Kitzhaber. Remember Peterson will be reporting to the Governor and thus following his lead on projects like CRC.

      1. It also means that if they move forward, it’ll look really bad when we write a “Peterson vs Peterson” post where she contradicts herself.

      2. Such a post wouldn’t gain any traction: She’s not running for elected office so she surely wouldn’t care, and she is hired to work for Inslee and support his views anyhow. I certain amount of change in position is expected in such circumstances.

      3. It would when framed as “Inslee isn’t listening to his advisors”. He’ll be running for re-election.

      4. Na, I am very sure she won’t be contradicting her boss, and certainly not in public

        But go ahead, give it a try.

  4. Remember the Secretary of Transportation is ex officio a member of the Sound Transit board. So there will be a change of personnel on that body also.

  5. I don’t see why freeing a lane on I5 downtown that would unblock nearly all the northbound traffic and at a cost of $60 million is a budget buster.

    1. The quote in my post is almost exactly relevant to that situation. It’s just pushing the bottleneck around.

  6. Everyone needs to remember this is the Department of Transportation, who’s primary responsibility is the maintenance and construction of the states highway and ferry system. Any other roles are simply in addition to that primary role. It’s not saying that there could be some improvements made either. Personally I would like to see WSDOT take over the transportation portion of the UTC. I’d like to see them tighten up on intercity bus operators, by requiring them to serve intermodal transit stations where they exist, and working with local agencies to build ones where they don’t. This instead of serving a gasoline station or truck stop at the freeway interchange and call it good. I’d also like to see more investment in rural feeder or intercity bus service as well. Of course all this is done at the direction of the legislature, if they don’t see the benefits of intermodal non driving transportation, the point is basically moot.

    1. So are you saying that the state should require BoltBus to turn into another Greyhound? If it stopped at every single inter-modal station on the way to Portland, the trips served in the primary market would take a lot longer.

      1. No, Mr Z is saying that when an intercity bus does make a stop, it should be encouraged/coerced/forced to stop at the local transit center so as to permit use by the non-auto-addicted.

    2. “Department of Transportation, who’s primary responsibility is the maintenance and construction of the states highway and ferry system” If that’s the case they should really rename it to the Dept of Highways and Ferries. But it’s not the 50’s anymore and our state should realize by now there are other options for transportation.

      1. In fact, the Washington DOT is legally supposed to be responsible for maintaining a passenger and freight rail network too. And they have done so for the last few decades.

    3. MrZ, WSDOT’s mission is not highways and ferries, and hasn’t been for years. It’s “moving people and goods”. They’re seeing the benefits of intermodal already, they just haven’t had the leadership to do it.

      1. I think you’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter much who leads WSDOT when the Legislature controls policy and the purse strings. The Legislature micro-manages WSDOT’s budget more than other agencies.

        Mission and primary responsibility aren’t the same things. The fact is that most of the funding directed to WSDOT by the Legislature goes into highways and ferries. While the mission is broader, the primary responsibility (what they actually do) is more narrowly focused. If the Legislature wanted to spend a couple more billion dollars on rail, I’m sure WSDOT would be happy to spend it (as they are with the recent influx of federal dollars for rail).

      2. WSDOT is open to recommend alternatives or point out negative impacts in committee – what the legislature *does* is the result of a lot of politicking that WSDOT can get involved in tangentially through the provision of the right data at the right time.

    4. I’d like to see them tighten up on intercity bus operators, by requiring them to serve intermodal transit stations where they exist, and working with local agencies to build ones where they don’t.

      What a terrible idea. Right now we have one local (Greyhound) and one Express (Boltbus) from Seattle to Portland. They provide different services, and attract different clientele. Why force them to do the same thing? It makes no sense.

      1. The passage I quoted states that “them”, referring to intercity bus services, should be “required” via a tightened regulatory environment to serve every intermodal station they pass. He didn’t say “some of them.”

        And how would that work anyway? What an imperious regulatory environment that would be, where some private operators are required to spend money/time/resources servicing less than profitable transit centers and others are not?

      2. In which small town does Grehound stop at a truck stop instead of a better transit center? It seems like Seattle is actually the outlier. Many if not most of the other Greyhound stations in Washington and adjacent cities around it are multimodal stations aleady or adjacent to train stations.

        By the way, has Greyhound said anything about where it’s moving its station to?

  7. Luckily Rodney Tom will protect working Washington families from an increase in the gas tax that will go to hipsters, gentrifiers and workers benefit.

    1. That’s an interesting idea.

      The bus used to be the “loser cruiser.”

      Now you’re saying it’s something restricted to “hipsters, gentrifiers and workers?”

      Quite a reversal, if true.

      1. That increase in the gas tax will mostly go to finishing highway projects, too. So it sounds, from Simon, like everyone who uses the transportation system is a hipster or a gentrifier.

      2. It’s a big tone change, from mockery of a clearly inferior “them” to insecure defensiveness about a richer, better-educated “them.”

      3. Worse than that, everyone who’s not a hipster, gentrifier, or Amazon worker is ignored and falls through the cracks. It’s like when people assume that the only beneficiaries of express buses or Sounder get free passes from their employers. Some of us use express buses and pay the full price for our passes.

    2. The per gallon surcharge for gasoline was last raised when? And it is keeping up with inflation of materials and labor costs how?

      Glad to hear this Rodney Tom is such a flaming Leninist.

      You want roads to Vroom Vroom your F-450 with Dualies on?


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