Marin County's Bike-Riding Director of Public Works Meet Rosemarie Gaglione
Rosemarie Gaglione joined Marin County as its first woman Director of Public Works in March of 2021. Gaglione holds a degree in environmental engineering and an illustrious track record of running large agencies. She served most recently as the director of Public Works in Oxnard and prior to that, she held the same position in Goleta. Prior to that she was with SLO County. In her short tenure at the County she has shown a very promising commitment to improving safety for people who walk and bike in the County’s unincorporated areas. We are thrilled to have her on board.
Rosemarie sat down with our Executive Director, Tarrell Kullaway, to discuss her vision for the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the role it can play helping to improve things for people who walk and bike in Marin.
TK: Do you ride bikes? What kind of riding do you do?
RG: My wife, Michelle got me into biking. She got me a road bike for my Birthday and got me hooked. We live in Marinwood so our regular places are China Camp, or we go on the bike path up to Novato to Stafford Lake and take the bike paths up there. Indian Valley and Lucas Valley are also favorites.
TK: What do you think bicycling’s role is in a healthy community?
RG: It’s critical. On the days that I ride to work I show up ready to work. It keeps my heart pumping and my brain working. For the community it’s better that you are not putting more pollutant particles out there. You are “cage free”. You’re experiencing your environment differently – you’re picking up smells. It’s a completely different experience than driving.
TK: Tell us about the projects you’ve worked on in your career that have created safer, more connected places to ride.
My wife is the one who got me biking and once I did, I started to see the streets in a whole new way. At first I wasn’t riding much but I’d get on a bike and ride around the area just to see how it was for people who bike. In Goleta, I helped get several class 1 and class 4 projects implemented. One project seemed simple – the Los Carneros Bridge Replacement – we had to get a Design Exception from Cal Trans which took about 6 months to get approved. There is a steep grade heading up onto the bridge, and a transition where some cars were jockeying to get on the on-ramp and others were trying to move into the left lane. A lot of the cyclists there were not “road warriors” and I would hold my breath when I’d watch them trying to navigate that. So we created a way for them to cross more safely – but it hadn’t been done in District 5 yet. We had a lot of help from the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition to get that accomplished. We also received a regional ASCE award for a project in Hollister where we built a class 1 bike path so elementary students could get safely to school. Then there were a number of other projects under way when I left in 2018.
One of the simplest ways to make things better is to look at the striping plans we you do paving projects, especially since you have to restripe anyway. We would try to get cyclists more room, and narrowing the travel lanes – not only gets more space for cyclists, it tends to slow vehicles down.
TK: What are the biggest challenges in Marin?
RG: Well, it’s the same as in most cities and counties: everything costs money. Also in Marin, we have narrow roads that were built a very long time ago, and sometimes there is just no physical space to widen a road without retaining walls, etc. We have to spread a small amount of money over a larger area. It has been a thorn in my side for years and years that we are not legally permitted to lower speeds when we know it would save lives. We are excited about AB43 that will allow us to lower speeds below the prevailing speed in some areas starting in 2024.
As a Public Works Director you wear so many hats – it’s a tough job and we cover a large geographical area. But whenever there is a serious collision or fatality we need to gather as a group and review what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future. We really appreciate working together with the cycling community to help prioritize where we should be spending our limited maintenance dollars to save lives.
TK: Is there anything that you want our MCBC members to know about you and DPW?
RG: My job is to take care of all of our residents the best we can. I want everyone to have a voice and to feel as safe as possible; the roads are there for all users. I can’t always take phone calls, but I do read all the emails that come in from everyone. I love what I do and I’m happy to come to work every day. I also love living in Marin and am so blessed to be a part of the cycling community.
Thank you, Rosemarie! We can’t wait to see you riding the roads and trails of Marin!
members make it happen
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