SALEM — A familiar face to both Oregon and Washington has been selected to become the next Oregon Department of Transportation director.
On Tuesday Sept. 10, the Oregon Transportation Commission chose Kris Strickler, ODOT’s Highway Division administrator, to replace Matt Garrett, who left June 30 after nearly 14 years leading the agency.
Confirmed by the Oregon Senate this month, Strickler will become the 12th director for the agency, which was created in 1969 in a consolidation of state transportation departments.
Strickler won the nod from a group of three finalists chosen in a nationwide search. Commission members and Governor Kate Brown interviewed all three finalists.
“It really is an honor to have the opportunity to come in and help shape the next steps of the Oregon Department of Transportation,” Strickler said. “It’s really exciting.”
Strickler brings to the position experience in both the Oregon and Washington transportation departments.
“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.”
In 2018, he became administrator for ODOT’s Highway Division, which oversees the design, construction and maintenance of Oregon’s transportation system. This involved managing budgets; creating partnerships with elected officials, local jurisdictions, interest groups and community groups; and overseeing safety goals and multimodal projects.
From 2015 to 2018, he was Southwest Region administrator for the Washington Department of Transportation, overseeing all projects in seven southwest Washington counties. His work there included directing the administration of federal funds, helping to implement legislative directives and boosting opportunities for businesses owned by minority women and small businesses.
And from 2011 to 2014, he served as director of the Columbia River Crossing, the project to replace the Interstate Bridge across the Columbia River. The bridge, transit, highway, bicycle and pedestrian project was designed to improve safety and mobility along five miles of I-5 between Portland and Vancouver but never came for a vote before the Washington Senate.
He said recently that the new bridge remains an important initiative for the two states to take on.
“I can’t look back and tell you I would have done everything the same way,” he said in an interview for an ODOT video. “I’m older now and I think I’m a little wiser and I would approach it a little differently now. There are things that we would probably do different going forward and we really need that jurisdictional and stakeholder input to help define that. What we know is the congestion has gotten significantly worse, the economy is being hampered, the bridge is still there and we have a significant need to replace it.”
He also said that he may have an engineering background but early in his career found greater passion in many additional aspects of the work.
“As I started to work through engineering,” he said, “both at the college level and at my first jobs out of college where I worked for the Washington DOT as a designer and construction manager, I found I really enjoyed getting to construct things and that interaction with the community. It’s kind of a balance.”
Strickler has also worked on transportation projects for independent engineering firms. He holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Washington State University and lives in Portland.