OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee named a new leader for the state’s Department of Transportation on Tuesday, tapping a transportation planner who has focused on issues such as rail, transit and alternative fuels.
Lynn Peterson is currently working as a transportation adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. She would replace Paula Hammond, who had sought to retain her job but has now told staff she will be leaving in March.
Inslee said Peterson will help the state develop an innovative approach to a transportation network that he believes is outdated and hampering economic growth. He also touted her focus on reducing carbon emissions.
“Lynn has the experience, creativity and leadership skills to help Washington build a transportation system for the 21st century,” Inslee said. “And we’ll do that in a way that more efficiently moves people and goods and reduces carbon emissions.”
The appointment comes at a time when lawmakers are discussing a possible gas tax increase to pay for transportation projects around the state. Inslee said he is going to be working with lawmakers to develop such a package, with the hope of approving it without needing to go to the ballot.
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said transportation leaders need to understand multimodal strategies but also have to be sensitive to the transportation needs outside of metropolitan areas. He said transportation in many communities still primarily involves roads.
“There’s no other way that we in rural areas get to work,” Sheldon said. “We’re still a state of asphalt and cement and that’s going to take some sensitivity to the needs of people outside of the areas that public transportation won’t serve.”
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said that he was looking forward to working with Peterson.
“We’re heartened by it because he was looking for somebody with a new perspective and also making sure there was a good balance among different transportation needs, whether it be road projects or transit as well, ferries, things like that,” Chopp said.
Peterson has a background that has focused on transportation alternatives. She was previously a transportation advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon, a land conservation group. She was also a planning manager at Trimet, which provides transit service in the Portland area.
Inslee’s office said Peterson has recently been working in Oregon on issues including the state’s portion of the West Coast network of electric-vehicle charging stations, and moving commercial vehicles to alternative fuels.
Inslee also announced Tuesday that he had chosen bank executive Carol Kobuke Nelson to lead the Department of Revenue, reappointed Scott Jarvis as director of the Department of Financial Institutions, and tapped Nicholas Brown to be his new general counsel. Brown works for the U.S. attorney’s office as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Terrorist & Violent Crimes Division.