12:42 PM: West Seattleite Grace Crunican, the Seattle Department of Transportation director who came under fire after last year’s snowstorm, will resign and go into business for herself, according to a news release just received from SDOT – read on (added 1:03 pm, mayor’s statement; added 1:14 pm, mayor-elect’s statement; added 2:09 pm, our conversation with Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who is taking over the Transportation Committee):
Grace Crunican, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), announced today that she will step down as the head of the department. After eight years of service with the city of Seattle, she will depart to start her own consulting company. In order to assist the incoming McGinn Administration with critical transportation issues, such as the Mercer Corridor project, Ms. Crunican will continuing serving until a new director has been identified and the transition is complete.
“After eight years as the director of transportation, it is time for me to pass the reins to a new leader,” said SDOT Director Crunican. “It’s been a great run for me and the entire SDOT team. I move on with a real sense of pride about our accomplishments on so many important transportation issues.”
Under Ms. Crunican SDOT implemented the nine-year Bridging the Gap program, delivering in its first three years 97 lane-miles of repaved roads, 54 blocks of new sidewalk, easier-to-read street name signs at 3,835 intersections, 2,422 more street trees, and improved school zone signage for 154 schools. SDOT also built the South Lake Union streetcar line in 17 months and purchased the historic King Street Station to serve as an intermodal transportation hub, which it is currently rehabilitating. The department additionally funded and started construction on the critical Spokane Street Viaduct project and is preparing to finally construct a new tree-lined Mercer Corridor. In doing this work, SDOT increased its use of women and minority business enterprises by nearly 14 percent over six years for construction activities and 236 percent over seven years for goods and services.
SDOT also created a Bicycle Master Plan that has already installed more than 90 miles of bike lanes and sharrows, drafted a Pedestrian Master Plan, funded more Seattle bus service, and instituted a bus-only downtown Third Avenue. The department additionally built segments of the Burke-Gilman, Interurban, Duwamish and Chief Sealth trails, rehabilitated important roadway structures such as the Ballard and Fremont bridges, and deployed an Intelligent Transportation System featuring real-time traffic cameras, dynamic roadside signs and an interactive Web page. Though the department did not meet the public’s expectations during the two weeks of snow and ice in December 2008, a new winter weather response plan and Street Maintenance division director are ready for the cold weather season, and have already been tested by icy streets this month.
ADDED 1:03 PM: Mayor Nickels’ statement:
“I appointed Grace to head SDOT almost eight years ago, and I consider her the finest local transportation director in the nation. Her accomplishments are many: overseeing Seattle’s investment in roads, sidewalks, bridges and street trees; delivering on the promises of the Bridging the Gap levy; leading major projects such as replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and fixing the Mercer Mess; building the city’s first modern streetcar; and partnering with Sound Transit to deliver Link light rail. She made sure pedestrians and bicyclists had an equal voice in all our transportation decisions and filled almost half a million potholes! Grace embraced my Race and Social Justice Initiative, working hard to change the culture of the department. I accept her decision to move on knowing that Seattle will benefit from her vision, tenacity and leadership for many years to come. She takes with her my admiration and appreciation for a job well done. ”
ADDED 1:14 PM: Mayor-elect McGinn’s statement:
This morning I received Grace Crunican’s letter of resignation. I thank her for eight years of tireless service to the city of Seattle.
I have asked Grace to remain until I have selected a new director of transportation, subject to council confirmation.
Speaking of the council, West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is the new chair of its Transportation Committee (succeeding Jan Drago, who didn’t run for re-election); we have messages out seeking his comment on Crunican’s departure and the search for a successor.
2:10 PM: Just spoke with Councilmember Rasmussen, who told us regarding Crunican’s departure: “I did learn earlier today from Grace that she will be leaving and I thanked her for her service to Seattle and for her accomplishments.”
Regarding the replacement process, he said: “I imagine that Mayor-elect McGinn will have a very extensive recruiting process for the director of the Department of Transportation – it’s a complex, highly visible technical job, and there are not a lot of people who have all the skills it takes to run that department, so that will probably take several months. Then I will lead a rigorous council confirmation process for the nominee – and we’ll begin planning it now, but we’ll be ready to go as soon as Mayor Elect McGinn has identified his nominee. We can’t afford to skip a beat in this process because we have many critical projects under way; it’s a critical department that needs strong effective leadership. The council review will move along thoroughly but quickly.”
Rasmussen also says that as chair of the Transportation Committee, he plans to strongly advocate for the still-needs-money South Park Bridge replacement – even though it’s not in the city limits, he says it’s too important not to add city advocacy to make it happen.
3:26 PM: We asked SDOT if Crunican planned to start her business here in Seattle, or elsewhere; Seattle, we’re told. Meantime, Publicola has a little more reaction from Crunican herself – here’s their story.