In a city with a sometimes tangled traffic and transit mess, Mayor Jenny Durkan has taken her sweet time finding a leader for the Seattle Department of Transportation. One year into her term, Durkan introduced her nominee Tuesday.
Sam Zimbabwe has an excellent name and Washington D.C. transit planner geek bonafides. The mayor called hims a “transit and transportation project delivery expert” Tuesday.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to help keep Seattle moving, build a transit and transportation system for the next generation, and deliver on projects for the people of Seattle,” Zimbabwe said in a statement released by the mayor’s office. “Seattle is entering a new era of transit and transportation that will require effective delivery of capital projects along with a focus on giving more people access to safe options for walking, biking, and using transit.”
The City Council still must approve the pick but they might just be happy someone wants the job. Crosscut tallies the long roster of challenges Zimbabwe will face:
The city will be without Highway 99 for three weeks in early 2019 after the viaduct portion is closed and before the new tunnel is opened. Construction crews will begin to dismantle the viaduct in February. Light rail and convention center construction will force buses out of the tunnel and onto downtown streets. Construction will likely begin on the new waterfront. Coleman Dock is undergoing a major renovation, further disrupting downtown traffic. And several major private construction projects will continue or begin downtown. Additionally, the fate of the new downtown streetcar is still unknown. Bus service is undersupplied. The nine-year, $930-million Move Seattle levy is not delivering on promised projects. The city department must coordinate with Sound Transit as it builds out the light-rail network. And a long-promised network of bike trails is way behind schedule.
He’ll have some work to do on the bike end of things. The Durkan administration has only managed to build around 4% of the planned lanes in the city.
On Capitol Hill, Zimbabwe will also need to decide what if anything to do unstick the bureaucracy around possible optimizations to speed up Broadway for the First Hill Streetcar. And Capitol Hill, too, has some protected bike lanes that need installing in Pike/Pine.
Before assuming the role of Chief Project Delivery Officer in D.C., Zimbabwe served as the Associate Director of D.C.’s District Department of Transportation Planning and Sustainability Division. Prior to joining DDOT, Zimbabwe was the Director of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development at Reconnecting America. The mayor’s office said he led “planning and technical assistance projects focused on transit and transit-oriented development with local and national philanthropic foundations and public agencies around the country.”
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