Updates: SDOT announces director Grace Crunican is resigning

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.

15 Replies to "Updates: SDOT announces director Grace Crunican is resigning"

  • MrJT December 28, 2009 (1:07 pm)

    I’m honored to be the first to say. GOOD RIDDIANCE GRACE.

  • rnl December 28, 2009 (1:10 pm)

    Out with the old, in with the new….

  • Diane December 28, 2009 (1:16 pm)

    very good news
    what’s that saying, she could “see the writing on the wall”
    just hoping she doesn’t make even more than her current exorbitant salary as a “consultant” for the city

  • mark December 28, 2009 (1:34 pm)

    Whatever you do, please, I beg, keep her away from Light Rail. Maybe Bellevue needs a new Transportation Director?

  • Vanessa C December 28, 2009 (3:26 pm)

    You people are mean…you can’t blame her for snow and the freaks of nature and global warming. So what is your particular complaint? And if you have one, did you tell it to someone who matters? I’m just saying…….

  • kc December 28, 2009 (4:16 pm)

    Cant we just get over this! For a once in 100 year storm, is anyone surprised that it wasnt a smooth process. I would be more concerned if we were fully prepared for something that happens every 100 years. Find something new to complain about, its been over a year!!!

  • mark December 28, 2009 (4:24 pm)

    Over it? We are long over it. She was the General, her fault or not, she should have been gone a year ago. I hope the door doesn’t hit her her too hard on the way out!!!

  • Dan December 28, 2009 (5:55 pm)

    Vanessa C, my particular complaint is that she was chillin’ in Portland when she should’ve been in Seattle overseeing the snow cleanup. My complaint was registered at the ballot box, and the problem has now been taken care of.

  • Jeff December 28, 2009 (8:55 pm)

    Most people only know of Grace from news related to the snowstorm or Paul Jackson. I don’t blame them for not thinking highly of her. For those of use who had the pleasure of working with or for her, we know she did not receive credit for the outstanding job she did.

    Let us hope, for everyone’s benefit, that McGinn will hire someone as good or better than Grace. Few people truly understand what a difficult task it will be. Thank you Grace for all of your dedication and hard work.

  • GenHillOne December 28, 2009 (10:35 pm)

    Totally get the snowstorm frustration – my plea is to tread lightly on the personal info as there ARE kids involved who are our neighbors too, old enough to read the press, and have nothing to do with their mother’s job. Thanks!

  • WSB December 28, 2009 (10:50 pm)

    GHO – We were just flagged to the comment that included the personal information to which you allude, which I can’t find evidence was ever publicly disclosed/discussed – and that makes it against our rules, so it’s out – TR

  • Agnes December 28, 2009 (11:14 pm)

    I don’t care how good of a manager you are, when you’re dealing with unions protecting lazy, cruising workers you’re doomed. I’ve seen SDOT workers on the job – 5 in one place shooting the breeze and doing nothing. Unions kill businesses, and fuel the perception of government workers as not so sharp and not very good at what they do. It’s kind of like the “teacher truth” – if you can’t do it, teach it. For SDOT and many other government workers, if you can’t get a job with a private company, work for the city. They scrape the bottom of the barrel to hire the least wanted, and the unions protect them. Then we blame the strong managers that try to get the work done and set standards.

    Hat’s off to you Grace. You don’t need to work with the bottom of the barrel anymore.

  • Elizabeth Campbell December 28, 2009 (11:39 pm)

    Meeting Re No Tunnel:

    Dear Friends,

    This is a reminder about our meeting on Wednesday – hope to see you there – Things are looking shakier for the tunnel and we need to keep the heat on things over the next 90 days in particular.

    Call me if you need a ride, 769-8459, or would like a follow-up or any other info about how you can help.

    Best Regards,


    Subject: No Tunnel Response Teams Meetings

    On December 30th at 2:00 PM we are having the first meeting to assemble teams that can be responsible for specific aspects of the tunnel/Viaduct project, such as the permitting, engineering, historical/archaeological, traffic, financing, costing, components of the project. We need teams that can take one or two of those components and then be responsible for analyzing and developing strategies, coming up with talking points, rebuttal materials, information sheets, and any other response or activitiy necessary to blunt the progress on the tunnel project. all related to the particular segment they are responsible for.

    I envision that we would have at least once a month follow-up meetings as a group, and then individual phone conferences or email communications as necessary.

    We are at a critical juncture right now, the tunnel project is experiencing some unraveling, and we can do more to push it over the cliff – which is what this effort is aimed at.

    Attached are two documents that are an example of what we need help with – these two WSDOT documents outline the permits which are required for the Viaduct/Tunnel project. These documents are part of the permitting efforts by the State and City that have been on-going over the last few years, and have kicked into high gear this year. This is a critical part of the project that we need to get a handle on – why? Because many of these permits represent prime opportunities to attack this project and try to prevent it from going further. Many of the permits should require public input, allow for public input. Have you heard anything about them? Have you seen any public notices inviting you to comment on them? If you’re like everyone but the insiders, you’re heard nothing about any permits in the offing!

    Is this a big deal? You bet! Here’s the problem for those that oppose the project, if the public doesn’t know about the permits being in progress, if the State and City make backroom deals in order to avoid the real permit approval processes they are supposed to go through, if they make side deals to keep everything quiet, then they have quashed the public’s right to know, stomped on the public’s right to advise on and consent to any of the permits, and more importantly, they have usurped the public’s right to be informed amount many environmental aspects of this project which affect them at very fundamental levels – that’s the noise, pollution, traffic disruption, environmental damage, on land and in our waterways, even the financial damage this project represents. Shouldn’t you and your neighbors know about this and be given a say?

    Well that’s why we need help. Please think about one of the project elements you would like to help with and come to the meeting on Wednesday and meet others who may want to work with you, or who will be working on other aspects of the project.

    Refreshments will be provided; library address info:

    Ballard Branch
    5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
    Seattle , WA 98107

    My phone – 206-769-8459 Elizabeth Campbell

    If you cannot attend but would like to sign on to work on an aspect of this project call or write me and I’ll help you get set up. Incidentally, all the documents related to each project component will be up on the web so there will be no need to stockpile papers around your home.

    Thanks and look forward to seeing you,


  • on board December 29, 2009 (9:51 am)

    previous comment should be flagged as spam and removed.

  • GWJ December 30, 2009 (2:29 pm)

    “For those of use who had the pleasure of working with or for her, we know she did not receive credit for the outstanding job she did.”

    Give me a break! I worked for her and I saw department personnel moral hit rock bottom under her leadership. Hiring was not of the most qualified but rather hiring was of the person that could smooze the best or could be manipulated the easiest. Knowledge meant nothing under her and Mayor Greg. Political leanings and backslapping got high marks.

    By-the-way, the 2008 snowstorm was NOT a 100 year storm; it was a 10 year storm.

    For all that find fault with union/government workers, I don’t see any of you applying for the jobs when openings occur. If SDOT employees have such an easy life, I challenge you to work alongside any SDOT worker any day.

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