20-Year Traffic Veteran Tapped to Reduce Seattle’s Safety Woes
(The Center Square) – Seattle has a new transportation safety chief in town, and his goal is to make your daily commute safer.
Seattle Department of Transportation Director Greg Spotts appointed former City Traffic Engineer Venu Nemani to the newly created role of chief transportation safety officer, according to a news release Thursday by the department.
“Every Seattle resident should feel safe getting where they need to go – no matter how they travel. Creating the city’s first Chief Transportation Safety Officer shows our One Seattle commitment to leading with safety in how we plan, build, and operate our transportation system,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, referencing the state-required comprehensive “One Seattle” plan outlining the vision for the city for the coming decades.
The creation of the new position arose from the results of the "Zero-Vision Top-to-Bottom Review," conducted by Spotts at the behest of the mayor to determine why key metrics of traffic safety in Seattle were getting worse. The results of the review were released earlier this year.
According to the news release, during the review process the city “discovered there was confusion within the department on who approved safety measures, where they should be included in planning and projects, and how we measure their effectiveness.”
Out of that study, and the confusion it found, the new chief transportation safety officer role was created giving Nemani broad authority to “bring critical staff together to develop and implement safety plans and projects” in pursuit of Seattle’s goal to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
Nemani has a personal stake in that goal.
“In my 20-year career, I have seen the impacts of traffic safety in various contexts and settings. Early in my career, I once had to sit in the living room of a parent who lost their child in a fatal collision. I had to explain what happened, and why, to their son who was crossing a road. This fatal crash had a deep impact on me and changed me forever. This moment, even after several years, stays in my heart and motivates me to prioritize safety in my work,” Nemani said in the news release, responding to a question asking why he’s passionate about traffic safety.
Nemani noted that his focus in the first few months of the new role will be “[reversing] the recent trends we are seeing in our fatal and serious collisions.”
He went on to identify several “proactive safety investments,” including but not limited to “leading pedestrian/bike intervals, no turn on red restrictions, enhanced crossings, lighting” that he will prioritize, and that he’s looking for “ways to implement them on a citywide scale quicker than we have done in the past.”
More information on the appointment and the position can be found on the Seattle Department of Transportation blog.