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Stephanie Pollack Leaving MassDOT to Join Biden’s Federal Highway Administration

Sec. Stephanie Pollack at the 7th annual LivableStreets StreetTalk event in 2017. Courtesy of the LivableStreets Alliance.

MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack has been appointed to the new Biden-Harris administration as the new Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Pollack has led MassDOT since 2015, at the beginning of Governor Charlie Baker's first term. Before she joined the state government, Pollack had been Associate Director for Research at the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, and an attorney and director of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF).

As a CLF attorney in the 1990s, Pollack helped negotiate a package of significant transit improvements that the state promised to build as mitigation for its "Big Dig" highway projects (editor's note: CLF is also the nonprofit fiscal agent of StreetsblogMASS).

But while the Big Dig's highways were finished by the mid-2000s, the transit mitigation projects remain incomplete to this day.

Many advocates had hoped that the CLF advocate who had fought for those transit projects in the 1990s would finally make them a priority once she took the helm at MassDOT. And under Pollack's leadership, MassDOT did manage to shepherd struggling projects into construction, including the Green Line Extension and the South Coast commuter rail project.

But other key promises of the Big Dig, like a proposed connector between the Red and Blue lines under Cambridge Street in Boston, remain unfulfilled, and the state has all but given up on others, like the proposed restoration of the Green Line to Forest Hills.

Pollack also oversaw the creation of the Massachusetts Complete Streets funding program. Though its budget is modest, the program incentivized dozens of municipal governments to adopt Complete Streets policies and implementation plans.

"Stephanie Pollack was an integral contributor to the Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) coalition in its formative days. While we disagreed with many of her decisions during her tenure at MassDOT, she deserves respect and appreciation for her transportation advocacy and research over many decades," said Chris Dempsey, Director of the T4MA coalition, in a press statement on Thursday morning. "We wish her well in the Biden-Harris Administration and look forward to working with her to reform the nation's highway system to make it more equitable and sustainable.”

Governor Baker has appointed Jamey L. Tesler, the current Registrar of Motor Vehicles, to be the Acting Secretary of Transportation following Pollack's departure for Washington. Tesler has previously served as Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Staff, and Assistant Secretary for Procurement for MassDOT.

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