Mayor Walsh appoints new ‘chief of streets’ to oversee transportation, public works
Chris Osgood, who helped develop apps for reporting potholes to the city and paying for street parking, has been promoted to oversee the departments of transportation and public works, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office announced Thursday.
Osgood cofounded the city’s innovation team, called the New Urban Mechanics office, in 2010.
Since then, the city has frequently held up the office as a symbol of how Boston is forward-thinking and attuned to new technology.
In his new position as “chief of streets” in Walsh’s Cabinet, Osgood said he will be in charge of about 850 miles of roadway and open space in Boston.
“The mayor has a very ambitious agenda for streets in the city of Boston,” Osgood said, adding that the mayor wants to make sure the city has the tools that makes it easier to respond to problems such as potholes.
Gina Fiandaca, the city’s transportation commissioner, and Michael Dennehy, the interim public works commissioner, will both report to Osgood, starting Aug. 24.
Among the challenges Osgood will face in his new role: how to reopen the iconic Northern Avenue Bridge, which was abruptly closed in December after the city found significant deterioration on its floor beams.
Osgood also takes office as the state debates the role of ride-hailing app companies such as Uber and Lyft, which are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to taxis and public transportation.
Speaking to reporters, Osgood offered little insight on how he plans to take on such subjects, saying he would need to further study the issues.
But he did say he would continue to oversee expanding the city service apps that he and New Urban Mechanics cochairman Nigel Jacob developed.
The city is adding neighborhoods that can take advantage of its ParkBoston app, which allows residents to use their phones to pay for parking.
Boston will soon replace many of its antiquated parking meters that only accept quarters with new “smart meters” that take credit cards and can be paid for through the ParkBoston app.
City officials said they welcomed Osgood’s new position as a way to ensure cooperation among departments.
Dennehy said Osgood and his colleagues at the New Urban Mechanics office have already been an integral part of the department: For example, they brought the city an app that reminds citizens of their trash day schedules.
“Chris is the man behind the curtain for public works,” Dennehy said. “All of that innovative stuff, Chris has had his fingerprint on.”
Osgood will play a significant role in shaping Go Boston 2030, the city’s initiative that will outline long-term transportation goals for the city, such as expanding its bike lane network.
His promotion is the second major announcement for the city’s Transportation Department in recent weeks.
Last week, the city said that Stefanie Seskin would oversee the Boston Bikes program and manage programs for walkers and bikers as the city’s first “active transportation coordinator.”
She will help fill the void left by Nicole Freedman, Boston’s longtime bicycle program coordinator, who left for Seattle earlier this year.
Seskin worked for the National Complete Streets Coalition, an organization that advocates for streets that are safe for walkers, bikers, and drivers.