Gia Biagi, outgoing city transportation chief, reflects on her legacy

With Gia Biagi at the helm of CDOT, the city saw a 14% drop in pedestrian deaths and added more than 100 miles of bike lanes.

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Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi testifies at her City Council confirmation hearing.

Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi testifies at her City Council confirmation hearing. Biagi was appointed by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Fran Spielman/Sun-Times (file)

After nearly four years running the city’s Department of Transportation, outgoing Commissioner Gia Biagi says she wants to be remembered for focusing the department on issues of equity.

“I hope that folks think about the reset we did do, really trying to think about what does equity mean, what does mobility justice mean,” Biagi said Tuesday morning while visiting construction that shut down Canal Street at Union Station.

Biagi announced last week she was resigning this Friday. She was hired by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot and stayed for a few months under Mayor Brandon Johnson, who had asked his department heads to stay on.

She says she wants “folks to remember I sat on the shoulders of my predecessors and tried to point [the Chicago Department of Transportation] in the right direction” and address disparity now and over the long term.

Outgoing CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi stands outside construction on Canal Street at Union Station on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.

Outgoing CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi stands outside a construction zone on Canal Street at Union Station on Tuesday. “I’ll get to ride around the city 10 years from now and say I had a little bit to do with planting a seed there. And that’s the most gratifying thing,” she said.

Dave Struett/Sun-Times

Biagi said she’s proud of the 1,000 pedestrian safety improvements CDOT has installed.

She also pointed to a 14% drop in pedestrian deaths from 2021 to 2022.

“Other cities aren’t seeing those trends,” Biagi said.

She also touted installing more than 100 miles of bike lanes.

“It went from folks who were really unhappy that we didn’t have enough, and now I have folks unhappy that we have too many protected lanes,” she said.

CDOT shifted its funding model away from TIF and federal money toward one that directs funds to the “right parts of the city that hadn’t seen it,” she said.

“Shovels will keep going in the ground for years,” she said. “I’ll get to ride around the city 10 years from now and say I had a little bit to do with planting a seed there. And that’s the most gratifying thing.”

Biagi has her next job lined up, but she won’t share details about it yet.

“I do have a wonderful next opportunity,” she said. “I’ll be in the Chicago area but have the opportunity to work in cities all over the world.”

Asked if she’ll return to Studio Gang, the Chicago architecture firm where she worked, Biagi laughed and said, “We’ll see.”

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