With Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) interim director Goran Sparrman vacating his position at the end of August, Mayor Jenny Durkan has appointed another temporary director to the post: Linea Laird, a former state transportation engineer who spent time as the administrator of the State Route 99 tunnel project and as project manager for 2007 Tacoma Narrows Bridge construction.
Durkan deliberately appointed Laird, said the mayor’s office in a press release, as the State Route 99 Viaduct Replacement project comes to a head. Laird will be at the helm as the Viaduct closes (and eventually is demolished) and traffic is rerouted to the new tunnel.
This realigning of waterfront streets comes along with a busy time in downtown Seattle traffic, where multiple road and construction projects are expected to converge into heavy bottlenecks on downtown streets.
“As we head into upcoming construction that will constrain our downtown streets, Linea will bring strong experience to oversee the delivery of Move Seattle levy and our City’s major capital transportation projects as well as expertise around Center City mobility challenges,” said Durkan in a statement.
Among those challenges Laird will have to oversee: timelines set by City Council to implement a delayed “basic bike network,” handling the delayed Center City Connector streetcar project no matter which way it goes, and a messy outlook for the Move Seattle Levy, which funds Seattle transportation projects.
The SR 99 tunnel project was plagued with delays—the highway was supposed to be open to cars in December 2015—and controversies, Around $600 million in overruns are mired in legal action right now and could fall to the state for payment, depending on how lawsuits pan out.
Since 2013, though, Laird has served as chief engineer for all of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), so she was out before the infamous delay that started at the end of that year.
The previous interim SDOT director, Goran Sparrman, has served in the position since January. He replaced the department’s last permanent director, Scott Kubly, who is now an executive at Lime.
The city started gathering public input on the SDOT director position back in May, and just appointed a search committee to evaluate potential candidates. That includes representatives from King County Metro, WSDOT, Port of Seattle, Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Bicycle Club, and others. The committee is co-chaired by Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Strickland and Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee co-chair Betty Spieth-Croll.