Transforming ODOT through Intermodal Oregon
By Jerri Bohard, ODOT Transportation Development Division Administrator, and Paul Mather, ODOT Highway Division Administrator
Like all public agencies, ODOT is facing challenges and changing expectations from the public. Funding is increasingly constrained, and because our footprint as an agency is not financially sustainable, we need to be more efficient. At the same time, economic and demographic trends are shifting the public’s transportation needs and behaviors, driving a need for more transportation options.
These forces all point toward the need for ODOT to evolve as an agency, moving away from a siloed and highway-centric approach to business. While ODOT began life as the Oregon Highway Department a century ago, today we are much more. While highways will long remain the core of our portfolio, today we have extensive involvement in rail, freight, public transportation, active transportation, and interfaces with aviation and maritime resources. Governor Kitzhaber has challenged ODOT and the state’s transportation leadership to reenergize this multimodal transformation.
To lead this cultural change within the agency, ODOT has created the Intermodal Oregon initiative to take a fresh look at our structures, processes, and policies. As we have engaged this effort, we have found that too often our mode-based funding is mirrored in our organizational structures and processes. As a result, we do not always optimize the investments made in our transportation system.
The goal of Intermodal Oregon is to enable ODOT to continue evolving toward a solution oriented transportation system rather than focusing primarily on highways, seeking ways to develop more intermodal solutions rather than projects tied to program or funding silos. We are making progress in this goal, as can be seen through the Enhance program in the next STIP which is seeking to fund the projects that best address problems. We have examples of projects like the Salem Amtrak and transit station, where ODOT partnered with the city and transportation providers to strengthen an important intermodal connection. We have also combined our Rail and Public Transit divisions into a single division to foster multimodal collaboration.
In the past, ODOT has been organized by funding and programs, with different modal divisions that weren’t sufficiently integrated. In the future, ODOT will be shaped by its functions and multimodal decision making will be integrated throughout the agency. As the leaders of Intermodal Oregon, we are working to institutionalize intermodal approaches in our governance structure without the disruption of reorganizing the agency.
The first step in this change has been the creation of the Intermodal Leadership Team (ILT), bringing together the heads of ODOT’s divisions into a new venue for cross modal and cross functional discussion. The goal of the ILT is to better coordinate decisions and promote changes that will help us deliver more complete and effective solutions to the state’s transportation needs.
As we continue this journey of agency evolution, the voices of our stakeholders will be critical to ensuring that we have the right end in sight and chart the best course to get there.