BART leans toward Seattle transportation veteran Grace Crunican for chief 

BART directors are evidently moving toward naming former Seattle transportation chief Grace Crunican general manager of the transit system.

After interviewing nine candidates over two days, the Bay Area Rapid Transit board settled on Crunican as its top choice to replace Dorothy Dugger, who was forced out in April, Director Joel Keller said.

“We haven’t completed everything that needs to be completed — there’s still background and compensation,” Keller said. “It’s not a final decision.”

Other board members were more circumspect about revealing their choice. Director Lynette Sweet acknowledged that there was a top candidate, but declined to say who that person was.

“In the interviews, the consensus was there was one person we all agreed on, but until there’s a vote there’s not a job,” Sweet said.

Sweet said that each of the directors had his or her own criteria for selecting a manager.

“I was just looking for someone who had real people skills,” she said, “Not just train talk — someone who understands people and what gets them to work for you, because we have had some real union issues.”

Crunican, now a transportation consultant, stepped down as Seattle transportation chief at the end of 2009. She had been under fire from politicians, the press and city residents after a two-week snowstorm crippled the city in 2008.

“That happened to be a very weird snowstorm,” said Jan Drago, who chaired the Seattle city council’s transportation committee at the time.

“The main criticism was with the mayor and the public statements he made, and some of that may have brushed off on [Crunican] — in some ways unfairly,” she said.

Drago said that Crunican would be a good choice to manage BART.

“She was the best thing that ever happened to transportation in Seattle,” Drago said. “She’s a doer. She likes cutting through the bureaucratic crap and getting things done.”

Among Crunican’s accomplishments, Drago said, was securing federal funds for several major construction projects.

“Because of her experience at the federal level, she knows how to do that,” he said, referring to Crunican’s years in the Clinton administration’s Federal Transit Administration, which distributes funding for public transit projects.

BART, which is planning to upgrade its nearly 40-year-old fleet at a cost of $3 billion, could certainly use federal funds.

Crunican did not return a phone call seeking comment.

BART directors said they hoped to vote on a candidate at the board’s August 11 meeting.

Grace Crunican’s résumé

  • Transportation consultant since January 2010
  • Chief of the Seattle Department of Transportation, 2002 to 2009
  • Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, 1996 to 2001
  • Deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, 1993 to 1996
  • Director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, 1992 to 1993
  • Deputy director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, 1984 to 1992
  • Staff for U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, 1981 to 1983

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