DDOT Director Jeff Marootian Tapped For Biden's Climate Team Marootian will serve as the Special Assistant to the President for Climate and Science Agency Personnel.
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NPR logo DDOT Director Jeff Marootian Tapped For Biden's Climate Team

DDOT Director Jeff Marootian Tapped For Biden's Climate Team

Jeff Marootian, director of District Department of Transportation, greets Kevin Mills, senior vice president of policy at Rails-to-Trails, at the preferred route reveal celebration. Eric Kayne/AP Photo hide caption

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Eric Kayne/AP Photo

Jeff Marootian, the director of D.C.'s Department of Transportation, just got a job in the Biden administration: He'll serve as the Special Assistant to the President for Climate and Science Agency Personnel.

Marootian's appointment was announced Thursday along with several other White House staff picks. Marootian was not immediately available for comment on the announcement; at the time of this story's publication, he was in a Metro board meeting.

Marootian is no stranger to Biden's political orbit.

Before he started his job at DDOT in 2015, Marootian worked on transportation issues in the Obama administration as White House liaison, assistant secretary for administration, and chief sustainability officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation. And before that, he worked on LGBTQ outreach at the Democratic National Committee during Obama's 2012 campaign.

Marootian has overseen several D.C. initiatives to curb climate change through transportation policy, including a recent pact with three other states to cut transportation pollution by 26% over the next decade. The pact, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative, took years of negotiation, according to the Washington Post.

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Another major focus of Marootian's tenure was Vision Zero, an initiative launched before his arrival at DDOT. It's goal is to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. While the department has launched multiple initiatives to meet the goal, including lowering local street speed limits to 20 mph, the statistics have not improved. In 2017, D.C. had 30 deaths, then 36 in 2018, 27 in 2019, and 36 in 2020.

He also launched D.C.'s first Open Streets event in 2019 that closed Georgia Avenue for a day to show D.C. residents how major streets can be used for something other than traffic.

But Marootian has also gotten pushback for not moving fast enough to build bike lanes: Advocacy groups like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association wanted to see 20 miles of protected bike lanes in 2020, while DDOT said they'd build 20 miles in three years.

Under Marootian's watch, D.C. also saw record street repaving in a bid to catch up with a goal to eliminate roads in poor condition by 2024. Planning for major construction projects like revamping "Dave Thomas Circle" and creating a transitway on K Street moved forward. Construction is nearing completion on one of the District's largest infrastructure projects, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge over the Anacostia River.

The Department also adapted quickly to how the coronavirus changed how people use streets. The District erected barriers to extend and make more room for sidewalks. It also created "slow streets" that put barriers on residential roads to discourage through traffic and allow a safer place for residents to walk, bike and play.

Marootian also served as the District's alternative board member to the WMATA board, though he essentially served as a primary member for about a year. The District never replaced the 2nd seat on the board after Jack Evans and Corbett Price left.

In a statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser said Marootian "has been a strong and passionate leader who we know will help our country build back better in his new role."

"During his time at the District Department of Transportation he has worked tirelessly to make our roads and sidewalks safer and more efficient, and to build a transportation network that not only meets our needs today but looks ahead to the future," Bowser said. She said the District will announce his replacement soon.

Marootian was one of several current and former local officials appointed to Biden's transition team. Marootian and his DDOT predecessor Gabe Klein are both part of the President-elect's transportation transition team. David Mayorga, the director of communications for the D.C. attorney general's office, is also on the transition team for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau agency review. Giannelle Rivera, the deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs, is on the transition team for the agency review of the General Services Administration. And Lauran Dugas Glover of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is on the team for agency review of Arts and Humanities.

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