Government, Salem, Transportation

Current Highway Division admin. chosen to lead Oregon Department of Transportation

Kris Strickler, current Oregon Highway Division administrator (right). Photo: ODOT

SALEM – After a six month search, the Oregon Transportation Commission offered the position of Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director to Kris Strickler, ODOT’s current Highway Division Administrator at their Tuesday, September 10 meeting.

Pending contract negotiations and Oregon Senate approval, Strickler is poised to become the 12th director of ODOT.

The Oregon Transportation Commission is the governing board of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Strickler will succeed Matt Garrett, who led the department from 2005 to 2019, and will, pending final approval, take over from interim director Paul Mather who stepped out of retirement from his last position — also Highway Division Administrator — with ODOT to lead the agency temporarily on June 1, 2019.

Coincidentally, Strickler also took the reigns from Mather in his last position as Highway Division Administrator when Mather retired from ODOT in September 2018.

“Kris has made a big impact on ODOT in his short tenure at the agency,” said Governor Kate Brown. “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.”

Strickler, who lives with his family in northeast Portland, has worked for Washington and Oregon’s respective transportation departments previously, as well as for transportation projects in the private sector for a combined 20 years, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Washington State University.

Perhaps his highest profile work has been on the failed Columbia River Crossing project; Strickler served as director of the controversial attempt to replace the aging Interstate Bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Wash for ODOT from 2011 – 2014, and previously, on the other side of the river, served as a Deputy Director of the Columbia River Crossing Program for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

In an internal interview with ODOT Communications Manager Tom Fuller, Strickler defended his work on the Oregon side of the project, noting that the project eventually foundered in Washington.

The project ultimately died when the Washington State Senate did not approve $450 million dollars for the project in 2013.

“I do have a lot of pride in the fact that we actually did our job,” Strickler said, referring to the Oregon side of the project, which did fund their portion of the project in 2013.

“Kris is very familiar with the transportation challenges Oregon faces,” said OTC Chairman Robert Van Brocklin. “As director, he will pursue a range of policies and programs to strengthen our multimodal transportation system in order to improve Oregon’s environment and economy. He was chosen from a very competitive field of candidates from around the country. We look forward to Kris’s leadership in his new role.”

“I am honored to be selected to become ODOT’s next director,” said Strickler. “I look forward to working with the Transportation Commission and my ODOT colleagues to fully implement the 2017 transportation bill. 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.”

Locally, ODOT has purview over Highways 6, 26, and 47 — which doubles as Banks’ Main Street — and is a key player in other local transportation projects, including the Salmonberry Trail, the proposed intersection redesign at the north end of Banks, and other projects.

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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