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Harrell’s nominee to head Seattle Department of Transportation has ’15-minute city’ aspirations

Greg Spotts

Calling him an innovative and inclusive leader “committed to designing, constructing, and maintaining sustainable transportation infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of communities,” Mayor Bruce Harrell has named Los Angeles transportation official Greg Spotts to lead the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The choice must be confirmed by the Seattle City Council.

Spotts currently serves as the executive officer and chief sustainability officer at the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, overseeing 1,500 staff positions, and an annual budget of $230 million, plus a capital program of more than $350 million, according to Harrell’s office.

Harrell says Spotts has led efforts to make Los Angeles “more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly and sustainable.”

“Seattle deserves a transportation system that is safe, reliable, and equitable, and our SDOT Director is instrumental in implementing that vision,” Harrell said in the announcement. “Greg understands that we must embed safety across all projects, view every decision through a climate lens, and build a transportation system centered on equity, quality infrastructure, and multi-modal solutions.”

Harrell included a change at the top of SDOT as he launched his new administration earlier this year saying he was moving on from Sam Zimbabwe because the department needed to take a more “balanced” approach that better recognizes “the role of cars and new electric vehicles.”

Many of the city’s transportation challenges have continued without major new initiatives to address the problems in the meantime.

If confirmed, Spotts will inherit a 1,200-person, $700 million a year department that has struggled against safety goals and ongoing traffic and transit woes. Last year, the city hit its highest number of traffic-related deaths since 2006, The Urbanist reports.

Spotts past work includes advocating for a 15-minute city “where people can easily access all of their needs,” the Seattle Times reports.

As far as big projects, Spotts will take over as one of the city’s most serious transportation construction projects wraps up with the reinforcement of the West Seattle Bridge. Meanwhile, his department will still have years of construction to finish the Madison bus rapid transit line cross from the waterfront to Madison Valley that is planned to open in 2024.

Spotts will also need to shepherd planned bike lane improvements to Pike/Pine.


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18 days ago

We urgently need basic competency in SDOT, anyone who has driven through Madison St should easily see that. I don’t know who they hired as contractors, but they are not professionals… People in third world country can plan and execute on the project better.

17 days ago

What a great explanation from Bruce Harrell for why we need a new director.

After all, Seattle, like most American cities, has never given enough focus on the needs of car owners.