Columbia River Crossing project has new director

WSDOT's Nancy Boyd’s main focus is on breaking ground

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoKris Strickler

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The new Columbia River Crossing director said Tuesday her focus is on breaking ground.

Following the recommendation of an independent bridge review panel convened to give oversight to the controversial $3.6 billion bridge and highway project, the CRC eliminated co-directors from each state in favor of one director.

Nancy Boyd, a Washington Department of Transportation deputy state design engineer, will serve as the project’s director, while Kris Strickler, a longtime CRC planner and Oregon Department of Transportation engineer, was tapped Monday to serve as deputy director.

The change in leadership follows a joint announcement last week by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber selecting a flat, deck truss-style bridge for the crossing.

“We are shifting into delivery mode,” Boyd said Thursday. “We’re transitioning from planning … into how are we going to deliver the project. It’s really an exciting time, and we’re refocusing the staff on getting all the plans put to reality.”

Choosing a WSDOT representative to lead instead of one from ODOT was nothing more than a way to streamline decision-making, those involved in the process said.

“The change in management structure was to underscore that we are one team,” said Boyd, who added she reports to both state departments of transportation. “We’re a team that has representatives from multiple agencies and consultants, but we are one team.”

Patrick Cooney, communications division administrator for ODOT, said the leadership structure does not reflect the thus-far larger contribution in planning money committed by the Washington state Legislature, which recently authorized an additional $37 million in planning and design funding. That figure has yet to be matched by Oregon.

“It has nothing to do with that,” Cooney said. “It has to do with putting the best people with the best experience for the job in the jobs.”

Rather, he said having one leader should make it easier to make decisions quickly, something that’s going to be necessary as the CRC butts up against several tight deadlines to complete environmental studies and receive federal funding.

“Each state had a co-director, and that naturally leads to some tugs of war about what the best course of action forward was,” Cooney said.

Boyd said she and Strickler want to increase communication to communities and stakeholders and make everyone aware of the effects of the new bridge, from construction and tolling to improved transportation predictability.

“We want to communicate what it’s really going to mean for people in this area,” she said.

Boyd, 45, has been with WSDOT for 20 years, and was involved in planning a $1.3 billion highway-widening project that included high-occupancy vehicle lanes on state Highway 16 between Interstate 5 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Boyd has served as deputy state design engineer for the past four years, with duties including representing WSDOT on Gregoire’s climate-action team. She replaced former Crossing co-director Don Wagner, who has returned to his previous duties as the WSDOT regional administrator in Orchards. Her annual salary is $127,200.

Strickler, 35, lives with his family in Washougal and worked at the CRC from 2004 to 2010, ultimately serving as deputy director. He joined CRC contractor HDR Engineering in June 2010. He replaces Oregon co-director Richard Brandman, whose contract was not renewed in January. His annual salary is $140,000.