Stephanie Pollack chosen as new MA transportation secretary

BOSTON (State House News Service) – The next head of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will come from Northeastern University as Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday appointed Stephanie Pollack as state transportation secretary.

Pollack spent the past decade working in public policy researcher as associate director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern. Baker’s chief of staff, Steven Kadish, also left Northeastern to join the administration.

She will take the place of acting Transportation Secretary Frank DePaola, who had hoped to remain on in the Baker administration and still may in a lesser capacity.

One of two Cabinet posts left unfilled at the time of his inauguration, Baker on Tuesday filled the important transportation post as a major Green Line extension project gets underway, the city of Boston’s Olympic bid brings new scrutiny to needed infrastructure upgrades, and as winter threatens to make its annual mess of the state’s roads.

An advocate for increased public transportation funding during her stint at Northeastern, Pollack takes over a transportation bureaucracy was the focus of a reform and consolidation law in 2009 and then in 2013 a push by former Gov. Deval Patrick to institute new funding sources.

Two major planks in the financing law – a computer services tax and a law indexing the gas tax to inflation – were subsequently repealed. Pollack donated $100 to the campaign that unsuccessfully fought to preserve the gas tax indexing law. Baker strongly supported the law’s repeal.

At Northeastern, Pollack oversaw the Dukakis Center’s research agenda and did her own research on transportation policy, sustainable and equitable development, according to her online biography on LinkedIn.

Pollack also maintains a private consulting business focused on advising non-profit and for-profit clients about transportation projects and policy, transit-oriented development and sustainable development issues. Her clients have included the Boston Transportation Department and the Massachusetts Port Authority.

She’s a previous partner at BlueWave Strategies and senior vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation.

George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, called Pollack a “superb choice” for MassDOT secretary.

“She has a deep understanding of transportation operations and management. From her years at Northeastern University, she has worked well with both business and the nonprofit advocacy community. She’s a bridge builder to multiple constituencies,” Bachrach said.

Rafael Mares, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation and a leading backer of Patrick’s push for new tax revenues to support transportation, celebrated Pollack’s selection.

“Stephanie Pollack’s depth of transportation knowledge and her data-driven approach is second to none. This is a big win for the state’s transportation system,” Mares said.

In a statement, Baker said, “Massachusetts’ intricate transportation network is a lifeline not only for private sector job creation and economic growth but also to our families who depend on a safe and reliable way to get to work and school. Stephanie’s vast experience in infrastructure and policy development will help our administration to be forward-thinking as we look for more innovative ways to meet the transportation needs in every region of the Commonwealth.”

In her own statement, Pollack said, “Under Governor Baker’s leadership, Massachusetts has a unique opportunity to demonstrate how transportation investments can be used to help create jobs and prosperous communities, improve people’s quality of life and connect people throughout Massachusetts to opportunity. I look forward to serving in the Administration and finding better ways to meet our transportation needs, serve our customers, spur our economy and reduce our carbon footprint.”

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