I am extremely honored to serve in the role of Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration for the GREAT organization that is PennDOT. The opportunity to lead such an excellent organization of about 10,000 dedicated employees—with a focus on building strong relationships with industry and governmental partners, and on ensuring that our 11 district offices can successfully carry out PennDOT’s mission —motivates and inspires me daily. I strive to encourage the continued advancement of forward-thinking concepts, ideas and innovative strategies to maximize investments in our assets, ensure quality and safety.
Safety resides at the core of PennDOT’s mission. We have a responsibility to provide a safe traveling experience for all motorists in Pennsylvania, in addition to establishing safe working environments for our own employees and our industry partners. I ask that no matter your role within the Transportation Industry, you keep safety at the front of your mind. PennDOT’s vision is to remain customer-focused—as public servants, we always must keep the end user and taxpayer needs for multimodal transportation facilities and services as our driving force. PennDOT is reinvigorating and enhancing the safety culture and has formed an Executive Safety Council to help steer these efforts.
Strong professional Relationships with other governmental agencies, with industry partners and with the people of Pennsylvania through local governments, planning partners and legislators are critical to our success. Working together with a shared vision is yielding more rapid and expanded advancement of transportation services. The changes we are making would not be possible without this shared focus. The growing advantages of community relationships coming from our PennDOT Connects efforts continue to amaze me.
The invigoration of Diversity and Inclusion in Industry and PennDOT efforts continue to grow our skills and bring huge gains in expanded viewpoints and depth in understanding the culture of the citizens we serve.
The evolution of our Asset Management approach toward a lowest life cycle cost emphasis through our Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP), which is in alignment with Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) guidance, and prioritization of core maintenance tactics to preserve our roads and bridges continue to improve our efficiencies and effectiveness.
Evolution of our entire Enterprise is lively. Strategic approaches in Design and Construction, and PennDOT County Accreditation efforts in Maintenance are ensuring that PennDOT operates like a business, serving customers and generating “profits” –savings always return revenue to an even larger program, touching more and more of our assets.
And as we charge to further expand efforts in Innovation, everyone needs to know that their ideas make a difference, and that they have the needed “space” to develop new approaches to the way we do our business. Tools to capture, share and track innovation deployment must continue to improve to aid in this effort more effectively. Pennsylvania’s leadership with FHWA’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) has been recognized once again as leading nationally – Restructured to further enhanced Innovation deployment in Pennsylvania – Congrats to all!
The efforts before us involve changing of organizational cultures. My quip on culture change; “An unplanned culture change can happen in a heartbeat, but the outcome can be highly unpredictable. A planned culture change takes a lot of effort and the development of logical iterations to ensure desired outcomes.” I believe is still valid, but quite long. Of late, simply put, I’ll say “Culture change is HARD!” Recognizing this is necessary. I suggest when we approach improvement and evolution efforts, we stay away from the question “Can we do (whatever the subject) – it’s too easy to get a “NO” answer. If we ask “How can we (evolve or improve), everyone will chime in on ways to make things better. I’ve seen the people of PennDOT step up to this challenge over my entire career. I look forward to every new idea, folks – Bring it on!
Pennsylvania has over 25,000 bridges to maintain
In 2008, PennDOT launched the Accelerated Bridge Program. The intent was to reduce the number of poor condition bridges in Pennsylvania to the 2008 national average of 8% over the next 25 years. At the same time, we would work to maintain current pavement conditions. PA has the third highest number of state-owned bridges and 24% of these bridges were in poor condition. As a gateway to the northeast, the majority of truck traffic to the northeastern states passes through our borders.
The number of Poor bridges (formerly referred to as structurally-deficient bridges) in Pennsylvania continued its downward trend in 2018. By focusing on larger bridges, where possible, over the last several years, we were able to exceed our 2033 goal of 8.4% poor deck area (currently 7.42%). We still remain short of our 2033 goal of 2,740 poor bridges by count, but anticipate reaching that goal in 2019—14 years ahead of schedule. Poor Bridge counts are conducted monthly. These numbers rise and fall throughout the year. The numbers shown on the graph above represent the number of poor bridges as of December 31 of each year. The starting point of 6,034 bridges was established in the third quarter of 2007 when the reduction goals were set. The actual “high water mark” came in August of that year, with 6,059 poor bridges. That number was reduced to 5,972 by the end of 2007, which is reflected in the graph.
Pennsylvania’s bridges continue to age, with over half of our bridges currently over 50 years old. This continues to present challenges as additional bridges deteriorate at faster rates .
Despite efforts to reduce the number of poor bridges in the state, it is a moving target. Every year, additional bridges are added to those that are already poor. PennDOT works to slow the decline of these bridges through preservation. This helps to keep the number of poor bridges in decline and reduces the likelihood of spikes in that number.
Following an uptick in posted bridges in 2013, PennDOT has made strides in reducing the number of posted bridges statewide. This progress was made by either making necessary repairs or, in the case of redundant or unnecessary bridges, closing them. As of 12/31/2018, no Interstate bridges were posted and only 35 out of 4,952 National Highway System (non-Interstate) bridges were posted.
PennDOT owns and maintains over 40,000 miles of Roadway
The International Roughness Index (IRI) is the primary measure used by PennDOT to evaluate pavement smoothness. Despite the decade-long focus on Poor Bridges, PennDOT has managed to keep the overall IRI on National Highway System roadways fairly steady. Increased IRI indicates increased surface roughness. As one might expect, the most marked increase in IRI has occurred on non-NHS routes.
Bringing Pennsylvania into the future
The Pennsylvania State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) facilitates the implementation of proven transportation innovations that are new to Pennsylvania. The STIC also supports the implementation of the Federal Highway Administration's Every Day Counts (EDC) Initiatives. EDC is a program in which FHWA works with State transportation departments to identify a new collection of innovations every two years that merit accelerated deployment. The STIC is comprised of various stakeholders, state and federal agencies, local governments, research organizations and industry partners working together to pursue specific innovations. The STIC meets three times a year and all business meetings are open to the public. Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) assist the STIC in selecting innovations that should be developed for implementation and promoted. Selected innovations are developed for deployment and promoted to become standard practice within the transportation community. Beyond deploying at the statewide or regional level in Pennsylvania, the STIC assists local governments to deliver a modern and high-quality transportation system to the citizens of the Commonwealth at all levels of government.
Ensuring safety and integrity of our roadways
PennDOT’s permitting services work to safely preserve the flow of traffic and the integrity of our roadways.
Special Hauling Permits control if, when and where oversize and/or overweight loads can travel. These loads can cause premature wear on our pavements and bridges in addition to obstructing traffic.
Highway Occupancy Permits (HOPs) control occupancy of our highways by utilities as well as access connections from commercial and residential developments, and local roadways. These utility occupancies and access connections are evaluated to insure the structural integrity of the highway and for the safe and convenient passage of traffic on the roads of the Commonwealth.
In the past, applications for both these permit programs were submitted on paper and reviewed manually. These processes were both inefficient, cumbersome and time consuming.
Improving the quality of transportation work in Pennsylvania
TQI (Transportation Quality Initiative). The goal of this effort is to Minimize owner-contractor conflicts by bringing PennDOT, PA Turnpike, Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), and the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) together to Collaborate to address critical industry issues that represent barriers to mutual project success. These teams will complement existing collaborative efforts (State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC), Quality Improvement Committees, as examples), and will focus on high-level cross-cutting issues as guided by the TQI leadership. Process Team topics include Design, Procurement, and Construction. Ad hoc process teams can be stood up on an as-needed basis. Each Process Team will focus on achieving the goals by addressing topics that can have an impact on the following Objectives:
Safety at all levels
For years, PennDOT has relied on our CRASH information system, which keeps records of reportable crashes, including details of various contributing factors for those crashes. Our engineers and our planning partners have utilized data from this system to focus on high-crash intersections and roadways to best determine safety countermeasures that should be deployed.
Manage traffic and report road closures and conditions
In the past, PennDOT faced a number of challenges to effectively and efficiently manage traffic and report road closures and conditions. For decades, the only effective method to address recurring congestion was to add capacity. These capacity-adding projects were expensive and often unsuccessful, while increasing our maintenance burden. Reporting consisted of a labor intensive, manual system that used spreadsheets in both paper and electronic format to maintain and disseminate road closure information.
Improving traction on our roadways during winter storm events
PennDOT currently uses salt, anti-skid and salt brine to improve traction on our roadways during winter storm events. We have 64 facilities capable of making salt brine at a cost of less than $0.18 per gallon. Last winter PennDOT used over 11.5 million gallons of salt brine for anti-icing on roadways before storm events and to pre-wet road salt to reduce bounce and scatter during spreading activities.
Motorists can check conditions on state-owned roadways, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 860 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
Also during the winter, the public can find plow-truck locations and details of when state-maintained roadways were last plowed. The information is made possible by PennDOT’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) technology, which uses units in each of the more than 2,200 department-owned and rented plow trucks to send a cellular signal showing where a truck is located.
PennDOT recently worked with Temple University to research Alternative Deicers. Through that research, information from the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Association and other DOT’S, PennDOT was able to create a process to approve new liquid deicers for Bulletin 15. Going forward, this process will be used to add new liquid deicers to PennDOT Winter Operations.
Select a PennDOT district to view a specific report.