Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff will step down in the second quarter of 2022 after more than six years on the job.
After the Sound Transit Board voted 14-3 at its Sept. 23 meeting to replace Rogoff rather than extend his contract for another year, Board Chair Kent Keel released a statement that the board will begin a search for a new CEO.
“After more than six years serving Sound Transit and our region, CEO Peter Rogoff recently informed the board and me that he did not foresee remaining in his role beyond the end of 2022,” Keel said. “Given the volume and intensity of current and upcoming work and the agency’s needs and interests, the Sound Transit Board has exercised its discretion to proceed immediately to initiating a national search to select the agency’s next successful leader.”
Rogoff sent an email to Sound Transit staff on Sept. 23.
“As I’m sure you can appreciate, the job of heading an agency that is dramatically expanding its transit footprint while operating service every day of every year is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting,” Rogoff said. “The exhilaration never wanes but the exhaustion sometimes spikes. This past year, my sixth as CEO, has been particularly challenging, as we were required to realign our capital program — serving up disappointing news for commuters and taxpayers — while continually wrestling with the unpredictable trajectory of the COVID pandemic.”
Rogoff said the realignment process, due to an estimated $6.5 billon budget shortfalls, was difficult and at times, divisive.
“There were stakeholders across the region with dramatically differing but strongly held views regarding our rapidly changing revenue and cost projections,” Rogoff said. “We had detractors saying ‘I told you so’ at the same time as we had advocates who wanted us to just wish the problem away.
“My board-adopted performance goals as CEO includes the charge to ‘ensure financial stewardship exists in all decision-making to guarantee the long-term affordability of the voter-approved plan.’ As you might imagine, fulfilling that charge during realignment often required me to be the wet blanket in the room when discussing scenarios that we all wished could be more optimistic.”
The board hired Rogoff, who makes an annual salary of $379,600, in November 2015 to replace Joni Earl, who retired in March 2016 following the opening of the University Link light rail line. Rogoff previously worked as Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the U.S. Department of Transportation and as Federal Transit Administrator undr President Obama.
“Now is a strategic time to identify our next CEO ahead of work to open light rail to the Eastside in 2023 and to Lynnwood, Federal Way and downtown Redmond in 2024,” Keel said. “Peter has agreed to remain in his position until the second quarter of 2022 to assist in an orderly transition.”
The light rail extension from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way is scheduled to open in 2024.
“The Sound Transit Board is grateful to Peter for all his contributions supporting the realization of the largest transit system expansion in the nation,” Keel said. “Upon his arrival in early 2016 he worked with the board and communities across the region to help shape and earn voter approval for the Sound Transit 3 Plan while simultaneously leading efforts to advance major light rail expansions to the east, north and south.
“At present, all but one of Sound Transit’s seven major construction projects are on time and performing on or below budget, putting the agency on a very solid path to nearly tripling the size of its light rail network over just the next three years while it continues to advance further expansions.”
Keel said Rogoff has made a big difference for the agency.
“Peter’s legacy at Sound Transit includes applying his deep federal experience to help secure critical funding for our region,” Keel said. “He has worked closely with our congressional delegation as well as the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations to obtain unprecedented levels of federal grant and loan support. He has also ushered in reforms to bring about a more collaborative, disciplined and informed annual budget process, all to the great benefit of Puget Sound taxpayers.”
Keel said Rogoff will continue to play a key role for Sound Transit over the next several months.
“The board sincerely thanks Peter for his accomplishments leading Sound Transit’s dedicated and talented staff, and for his continuing contributions over the next six to nine months,” he said. “The Sound Transit Board will soon proceed to forming a search committee and launch our recruitment to identify Peter’s successor.”
Rogoff shared a positive outlook for the agency.
“Looking forward, I can’t be more optimistic about our agency’s future,” Rogoff said. “Thanks to your work, we are on a very firm footing to deliver an additional long-desired expansion every year through 2023 and then deliver three of them in 2024 alone. So soon it will be time for a new leader to help you plan, build and operate the next generation of projects that follow.”