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Peter Hahn will not continue as SDOT Director, leaves a legacy of people-focused streets

Peter Hahn talks about the upcoming launch of Puget Sound Bike Share
Peter Hahn talks about the upcoming launch of Puget Sound Bike Share

Peter Hahn will end his tenure as Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation at the end of 2013. He will leave office with Mayor McGinn, who hired him.

With his lovably gruff demeanor, Hahn has been instrumental in shifting the mindset at SDOT to start viewing streets as places, “not just pipes for cars,” as he put it. After all, the way Hahn sees it, streets make up 27 percent of the city’s land, so they need to function in a way that serves all kinds of people using them for all kinds of purposes.

Even in the face of opposition, Hahn lead the department to make smart safety improvements that have proven to be big successes. From Nickerson to NE 125th Street to Linden to Broadway, Hahn’s data-driven and principled leadership has significantly advanced safe streets in Seattle.

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When Seattle Neighborhood Greenways began meeting, Hahn instantly saw the potential in the groups and in the neighborhood-focused vision they had for local streets. You can hear Hahn speak about neighborhood greenways in the 2012 video posted at the bottom of this post.

His support was vital to boosting the grassroots call for safer neighborhood streets. While some leaders might resist the idea of citizen groups “backseat planning” and trying to tell the department what to do, Hahn saw it as an opportunity to encourage a level of community engagement about neighborhood traffic safety that very few cities have been able to achieve.

Here’s Hahn’s letter to SDOT staff announcing his departure:

Dear SDOT friends,

It’s that time of year when we give thanks to our families, friends, and colleagues.  It’s also a time for reflection.

When I look back, I can say that November 2013 finds us in a better place than 4-6 years ago when we were faced with challenging economic times.  As I go to work today, the holes in the ground that I used to walk by are filling with concrete and glass and being activated by people.  We are doing great things in the City.

The first huge SDOT project in years, Spokane Street Viaduct, was completed over a year ago, successfully.  In 2013, the Mercer East project was successfully completed.  The Mercer Mess, over 50 years in the making, is now well over the midway point of its multi-year transformation to a beautiful street.  This project, along with the South Lake Union Streetcar, continues to spur the magical changes in the South Lake Union area.

This year we brought back chip sealing and applied it to 33 lane miles of streets during 6 days in our dry August.  SDOT’s safety program is more robust than ever and making a real difference and we have significantly reduced the number of fatalities and will continue to do so.  We are completing the seventh year, out of nine, in the Bridging the Gap program and are on pace, and in several instances ahead of pace, to accomplish all that we promised the voters in 2006.  A second Streetcar line is just months from starting.  We regained public confidence in how we handle snow.  In a month, we will be transmitting to council a new Bike Master Plan – last year we submitted the Transit Master Plan.  And the grandest project of them all, the Waterfront is making great strides.  This week construction commenced on the Seawall and the Waterfront design is reaching 30 percent.  Meanwhile our state partners are making solid progress on the boring of the tunnel.

All of this, and more (and I do mean much more), has been possible because of you.    It’s impossible to capture everything.

Below is a video clip, produced by a fellow SDOT employee, that summarizes much of what we do in SDOT. Also, there is a short “spoof” based on a television series The Sopranos (ours is Sdotpranos).  I hope you enjoy them.

SDOT Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2IKpw4e6co
SDOTpranos video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D2IrywCdm0

As I reflect on my time at SDOT, I can say that I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with you and serve the City of Seattle.  I am proud to have served with you the last four years and I have appreciated every moment.

You are wonderful people and dedicated professionals and I wish you all the best.   I will be leaving this post at the end of 2013, grateful for my time here and confident that SDOT will continue to be a top performing organization for years to come.

Thank you,


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11 responses to “Peter Hahn will not continue as SDOT Director, leaves a legacy of people-focused streets”

  1. Janine

    It’s a huge loss.

  2. kevin carrabine

    Say it isn’t so?! Thank you Peter for your willingness to listen, to act, and for making yourself and SDOT staff accessible and responsive. When the BGT Missing Link is completed, we’ll dedicate it to you!

    Kevin Carrabine

  3. merlin

    Ouch, this is a painful loss.

  4. Ints

    Mayor elect Murray has finally made a decision and it is to not keep the current SDOT director on as part of his new administration. At least that is what is currently being reported. In spite of all the rhetoric from both sides during the campaign, the proof is in the actions taken by the individual. McGinn did a lot for transportation in the broad sense including improving access and mobility for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users. A big part of this was done through the support of SDOT and the director. Murray has finally done something and to me at least, his action speaks volumes.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It’s common for department directors to change with administrations. For me, the real tell will be who he hires as the next Director. They are launching a “nationwide search,” and there are a lot of great minds out there to choose from. I am hopeful, but he could probably use some urging…

      1. Ints

        Yeah, that is a common occurrence with a change in administrations. However, that typically is a strategy to distance an incoming mayor from the previous administration. Sure, Murray has the choice to go in any number of directions and I would love to see him convince Jeanette Sadik-Khan to move out here and join his team and I would gladLy eat my hat were that to happen.
        There are also administrations that keep people on whose work they recognize and value. I guess Murray feels he can do better with someone else at the head of SDOT.

  5. margaret staeheli

    Thank you Peter for your inspired public service! A loss to Seattle- we were lucky to have you and Grace! A loss for Seattle Government however your impact will continue on!

  6. Don Brubeck

    Thank you, Peter Hahn, for broadening the mission and shortening the response time of SDOT.

  7. Thank you Peter Hahn. As a pedestrian, I have really appreciated all the small improvements that have been made all around the city, especially in my hood–Capitol Hill.

  8. […] outgoing Mayor Mike McGinn left office at the end of 2013, incoming Mayor Ed Murray sent SDOT Director Peter Hahn with him. Since then, Goran Sparrman has been acting as Interim Director with the Murray administration […]

  9. […] Wednesday. If confirmed by the City Council, Kubly will be the first permanent SDOT Director since Peter Hahn was swept out with the McGinn administration. Goran Sparrman has served as the Interim […]

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