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SDOT Head Crunican Resigns

By Erica C. Barnett December 28, 2009

The head of the Seattle Department of Transportation, Grace Crunican, has resigned. According to SDOT, she was not asked to leave, and is planning to start her own Seattle-based transportation consulting firm.

UPDATE: Crunican confirms that Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn did not ask her to leave. Noting that speculation about whether she would stay or go has been raging since well before McGinn was elected, I asked: Did the speculation over your possible role in the McGinn administration play into your decision?

"That's what I've been thinking about for the last few months, so yes, I did consider it," Crunican said. "I think that it's best that I move on, for me. ... It's been a good eight years." Crunican said last year's snowstorm, which she was widely criticized for mishandling, "didn't play any role in my decision making. It happened a year ago. I'm sorry we didn't meet people's expectations. But this decision is in the bigger picture."

Crunican said she will help her successor, whoever that may be, transition into the job before she leaves. But, she says, she will play no role in choosing a replacement. "That's up to the new mayor to figure out what he wants to do."

The new transportation director will face a major project right away: The complicated $290 million Mercer fix, which involves turning Mercer into a two-way street. The city will find out if it will receive federal money for the project in January. "It would be hard to have this be the first project you took to the city council as a new director [of transportation], Crunican said.

According to a statement by Mayor Greg Nickels' office:
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.

Nickels' office has not yet returned a call for comment. Aaron Pickus, spokesman for incoming Mayor Mike McGinn, said he couldn't comment on personnel matters and directed me to a statement issued by McGinn thanking Crunican for her eight years of service and saying that he had asked her to stay on until he could find a replacement. Pickus would not say what the timeline for finding a replacement would be.
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