Ryan Russo Leaving OakDOT

OakDOT head Ryan Russo cutting the ribbon on the Embarcadero bridge in 2019. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
OakDOT head Ryan Russo cutting the ribbon on the Embarcadero bridge in 2019. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Ryan Russo, Director of Oakland’s Department of Transportation, will be leaving this summer. The news was broken via an email from City Administrator and former SFMTA director Ed Reiskin sent to Oakland city officials last week. From the email:

I write to let you know that OakDOT Director Ryan Russo has provided me notice that for family considerations he will be relocating to the East Coast and therefore intends to resign his position with the City of Oakland… He has given the City a long runway of notice to provide opportunity for a smooth transition that maintains stability for the department and its capable team members along with its vital services. We’ll be moving immediately to begin the recruitment process for OakDOT’s next permanent director.

Russo told Streetsblog via email “It’s gonna be hard to leave here but it’s the thing we need to do.”

Public officials and advocates had nothing but nice things to say about his five-year tenure. “Ryan Russo excelled as Oakland’s first Department of Transportation Director as he put every ounce of his passion for liveable, equitable, cities into action, and worked hard every day to make Oakland’s streets safer for every resident, in every neighborhood,” wrote Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement. “Under his leadership, Oakland created a national model for racial equity in road paving, ensuring our most neglected and underrepresented neighborhoods received the infrastructure improvements they deserved. He also brought our city national attention for our innovative Slow Streets model that allowed our residents to walk, bike, and exercise safely through their neighborhoods at the height of the pandemic.”

“Ryan’s departure is a big loss for Oakland,” wrote Andy Campbell, chair of Oakland’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, in a text to Streetsblog. “Ryan and the leadership team he has built has been a very accessible and responsive partner with the bicyclist and pedestrian advisory commission.”

“While Ryan has been Director, the city could never build safety improvements fast enough, now that he is leaving, we are going to miss him,” added Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell. “But he has built a strong and growing organization that will continue to make sure safety comes first.”

Streetsblog reached out to a reliable source within OakDOT and could find no indication that Russo is leaving for any reason other than that he wishes to return to the East Coast, where he grew up. Russo, who started at OakDOT in 2017, previously spent 14 years with New York City’s Department of Transportation where he helped manage the construction of protected bike lanes and bus lanes.

Ryan_Russo_DOT_2006
Russo before his first Streetsblog interview

Russo told Streetsblog that he will talk more about his future plans in a few months. “I had an entry interview in New York when Streetsblog was in its first year in 2006. An exit one from NYC and your Oakland entry one. Let’s bookend it!” he wrote in his email. “I’m here through June and you’ll get more candid and informative answers if we do it closer to then!”

Deal.

Ryan after 16 years of Streetsblog interviews
Russo after 16 years of Streetsblog interviews

Streetsblog will also keep an eye out on news of who might replace Russo as director of Oakland DOT.

“Ryan charted OakDOT on a path toward a more sustainable, equitable, and safer Oakland,” wrote Emily Heard, Vice President of the Board of Transport Oakland, in an email to Streetsblog. “At a moment when traffic deaths, greenhouse gas impacts, and inequality are at record highs in our city, we need a leader who will confront these issues and not compromise or waver in the face of opposition from wealthy homeowners or other special interests. We look forward to working with the Mayor and City Council to identify such a leader.”

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