Oregon Walks presented retired Metro planner Andy Cotugno with its 2016 Weston Legacy Award last week, recognizing his decades of work advancing more walkable communities in the Portland region.
The award was presented at the pedestrian advocacy group's annual Weston Awards dinner, held at the Treasury Ballroom in Portland.
Cotugno marked 37 years in land use and transportation planning at Metro before retiring in March. During that time, he helped shepherd a number of signature accomplishments for the Portland region, including the 2040 Growth Concept, planning much of the regional light rail network, and allowing for new growth while maintaining strong protections for farms and forest lands beyond the urban growth boundary.
"We are lucky to have had his expertise and leadership serving our region for almost four decades," Oregon Walks said in a blog post announcing the award.
Cotugno served as Metro's transportation director from 1981 to 1998, then was director of Metro's Planning Department from 1998 to 2008, when he became a policy advisor to the Metro chief operating officer.
Accepting the award, Cotugno described creating more walkable communities as an essential piece of the vision that has driven his whole career.
"I have to admit, I'm not a pedestrian advocate," Cotugno said. "I'm an advocate of great cities. And you can't have great cities without a safe pedestrian environment and interesting things to walk to."
Cotugno praised advocates like Oregon Walks, founded as the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition in 1991, for creating awareness of the need to plan specifically around making walking safer and easier as a transportation option.
"The role of the advocacy community, I think, is vital," he said. "Things don't happen without it."
"There's the old saying: If you build it, they will come," Cotugno went on. "If you build a road system, you'll get cars. If you build a transit system that's efficient and easy to use, you'll get transit riders. Guess what? If you build a pedestrian environment, you get pedestrians. So those are the types of places we need to build."
The Weston Awards have been presented by Oregon Walks since 2011 to recognize contributions to walking safety and comfort in Oregon. Metro staff and councilors have been recognized several times. Longtime Metro trails coordinator Mel Huie was presented with a Legacy Award in 2015. Other Metro recipients of Weston Awards have included senior transportation planner Lake Strongheart McTighe in 2014, Councilor Kathryn Harrington in 2013, and then-councilor Rex Burkholder in 2012.
Other recipients this year included Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, East Portland Action Plan, Disability Rights Oregon and Just Walk Salem-Keizer.
The awards are named for Edward P. Weston, a once-famous long-distance walker and advocate, who among other feats walked from Boston to Washington D.C. in 10 days in 1861, and New York to San Francisco in 100 days in 1909.