Former FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, New CEO for Sound Transit

By: Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times

Peter Rogoff
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, New CEO for Sound Transit

A Sound Transit committee has nominated Peter Rogoff, former head of the Federal Transit Administration, to become its new chief executive, replacing Joni Earl, who is retiring. Among the 190 applicants, Rogoff is “head and shoulders above the rest,” Sound Transit board Chairman Dow Constantine, the King County executive, said Wednesday afternoon.

Rogoff was interviewed by a board committee in private. The full board is to vote on hiring him in public session Thursday.

Rogoff is no stranger to Seattle. In 2009, he signed off on $813 million in federal grants to the $1.8 billion light-rail tunnel linking Westlake Station, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, to open early next year.

When the dig began in 2011, he joined local officials to celebrate and noted this was the nation’s most densely populated corridor without high-capacity transit.4

Rogoff is now undersecretary for policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Before leading the transit administration from 2009-2014, he spent 22 years on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including service with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a longtime Sound Transit supporter, on the panel’s transportation subcommittee.

Earl, 62, has been on medical leave since spring 2014, after a brain injury. She occasionally has participated in transit business, including CEO recruitment, and plans to retire when the UW Station opens.

Earl is widely admired for steering Sound Transit through a fiscal crisis in the early 2000s after cost overruns nearly sunk the agency.

The agency is building a 50-mile light-rail network by 2023. Interim CEO Mike Harbour didn’t apply for the permanent post.

Sound Transit will collect $1 billion in taxes, grants and fares next year, making this one of the state’s highest-profile public jobs.

One of Rogoff’s first challenges would be to help pare local politicians’ wish lists, which include 70 projects and options, into a package for a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure next fall. To name one example, it’s undecided whether tracks should go along Interstate 5 to downtown Everett, or veer west to Paine Field, or reach both for an additional $1 billion or so.

If voters approve all the available property, car-tab and sales taxes, that could set in motion up to $20 billion in projects and 20 years of construction.

The advertised salary range for the CEO post was $201,000 to $302,000. The exact salary will be the set by the board, said Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or Twitter @mikelindblom

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