Transportation advocates searching for truck-parking solutions

May 28, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
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COVID-19 illuminated an already-worsening dilemma when the Turnpike Commission and PennDOT closed down Pennsylvania’s rest areas, attempting to control the spreading virus. The dilemma? Parking facilities for trucks.

While many members of the motoring public simply stopped driving and sheltered in place, the nation’s freight haulers still had work to do – especially when those hunkering down at home began ordering everything from hand sanitizer to dog food from on-line purveyors. Pennsylvania scrambled to restore truck parking areas, and most if not all of the Commonwealth’s rest stops are up and running again.

It was already becoming an issue as the market for online purchases is growing rapidly. The American Transportation Research Institute’s most recent Top Industry Issues report identified truck parking as fifth among the trucking industry’s top concerns. Read more

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 21

May 26, 2020 by · Leave a Comment
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Speeds of 100 mph or more, not congestion, are the concern for Memorial Day weekend traffic

Transportation officials are not worried about too many cars on the roads for the holiday weekend, but how fast drivers are going, and have been traveling, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government groups launch truck parking survey

Truck parking challenges in the Northeast amid the coronavirus pandemic — due in part to shipment type or route changes — are being surveyed by a group of 13 transportation departments and metropolitan planning organizations.

PA Turnpike facing financial burden amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

As the COVID-19 pandemic affects almost every type of business, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is not being spared. Turnpike officials said they have been hit financially just like everyone else, and there’s no telling how they will bounce back.

PennDOT filling pent-up demand at driver’s license centers

Although she turned 16 in April, the closure of non-essential businesses due to COVID-19 meant that Laina Whipkey was barred from going to a PennDOT driver’s license center to test for her driver’s permit.

 

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 20

May 18, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 20
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Report: Highway fatalities reach new low in 2019, PennDOT officials say

PennDOT officials announced Thursday that the state total of highway fatalities reached an all time low in 2019, dropping to 1,059 total fatalities.

Representatives urging study on impact of electric cars

State Reps. Liz Hanbidge (D-Montgomery) and Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) are urging a study of the impact of electric vehicles in Pennsylvania.

Pandemic put $1 billion hole in Pennsylvania’s transportation budget

PennDOT is delaying new construction and downgrading resurfacing to patching and sealing as state highway workers return to work after a seven-week coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

PennDOT to use existing photos for drivers license, identification card renewals

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, PennDOT says it will use existing photos on file for customers renewing their driver’s license and identification cards.

PennDOT extends deadlines for vehicle registrations, inspections

PennDOT announced Tuesday that expiration dates for vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts, according to a press release.

 

New report cites poor condition of PA’s rural roads and bridges

May 15, 2020 by · Comments Off on New report cites poor condition of PA’s rural roads and bridges
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Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest number of deteriorating rural bridges in the country, according to a new study by a national transportation research organization.

The report, produced by a Washington-based nonprofit organization known as TRIP, said 17% of Pennsylvania’s rural bridges are in poor condition, compared with a national average of 8%. It says the country faces a $211 billion backlog in funding for needed repairs and improvements to the rural transportation system.

The report also noted that in 2018, Pennsylvania had 479 fatalities on non-Interstate rural roads. The rate of traffic fatalities on these roads is significantly higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state – 2.05 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.90.

Moreover, Pennsylvania ranks 16th in the country in rural pavements in poor condition at 19%, compared with the U.S. average of 13%.

TRIP says the report focused on Rural America because it is the primary source of the energy, food and fiber that drives the U.S. economy. It accounts account for 97% of America’s land area and is home to the vast majority of the nation’s 2.2 million farms.

“This report comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is shrinking the revenue available to repair and maintain our bridges and highways,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “This is an issue that policymakers need to address quickly and comprehensively.”

The report, titled “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” can be viewed at this link. For more information about TRIP, visit the organization’s website.

 

 

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 19

May 11, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 19
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Feds OK I-83 widening project

The Federal Highway Administration has signed off on an Interstate 83 widening project that could displace nearly 100 York County homeowners and businesses. The project, covering roughly 5 miles of the I-83 corridor from Exit 19 to Exit 22 — Market Street to North George Street — received FHA approval April 20 based on an environmental and engineering assessment conducted in August.

With April revenue down 30 percent, PennDOT counting on federal aid

The fate of PennDOT’s operations lies in whether the department receives a chunk of federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

PennDOT makes changes for drivers during pandemic

PennDOT advises drivers to not worry about renewing licenses if they have expired during the stay at home order. Any licenses or ID’s that have expired from March 16th to May 31st will be valid until June 30.

Bridges connecting Pa., New Jersey to collect cash again

Drivers making the trip over the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania will soon be able to use cash again on four bridges. Starting Monday, May 11, at 6 a.m. the Delaware River Port Authority will begin taking cash payments again for tolls on the Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry and Walt Whitman bridges, connecting South Jersey with Philadelphia and Delaware County, the DRPA announced Wednesday.

PennDOT says $800M in federal aid needed to keep non-critical projects rolling

Facing a drop in gas tax revenue from fewer motorists driving at a time when the Pennsylvania Turnpike won’t turn over more than $100 million due in July, PennDOT might delay noncritical bridge and highway projects if the state does not get $700 million to $800 million in covid-19 federal aid this summer, agency officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Transportation Secretary says CARES Act has ‘done a great deal’ for state

In an interview seen only on KDKA, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was asked if her Department was doing enough to help this region. Chao insists the CARES Act is helping local agencies.

PennDOT implementing COVID-19 guidelines as projects reopen

When work resumes on the Upper Bridge section of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway on Monday, all contract workers will follow COVID-19 safety guidelines as required by a safety plan submitted by the contractor, and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

 

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 18

May 5, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 18
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Construction projects across Pennsylvania get ready to roll

After sitting idle for approximately six weeks, nonessential construction sites across Pennsylvania are gearing up to resume work on May 1. In doing so, project teams must adhere to new COVID-19 safety regulations released by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on April 24. Wolf became one of the first governors in the country to shut down all but essential projects on March 19.

PennDOT to resume safety project near I-80 Bellefonte Interchange

While it will likely be at least five years before the new I-80/I-99 high-speed interchange is completed, PennDOT is continuing work to enhance safety near the I-80 Bellefonte exit.

Potters Mills work continues in May

Work will continue off the roadway, and drivers should be alert and drive cautiously, as numerous construction vehicles will enter and exit U.S. 322 through the Potters Mills area. Flaggers in the roadway may be aiding construction vehicle movement. Motorists are not permitted to follow construction equipment into the work area.

Southern Beltway project to resume in Mt. Pleasant Township

Construction on the Southern Beltway will continue beginning Tuesday with traffic restrictions being set into place in Mt. Pleasant Township, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

CSVT work to continue next week

Work will begin Monday and will include excavation and embankment operations, planting trees and shrubs, and building temporary access roads to facilitate the paving operations. Work on the CSVT River Bridge will begin a week later, on May 11. The contractor will continue preparatory work for the construction of the bridge deck.

Pa. turnpike traffic reduction could cost SEPTA $178M

SEPTA is hemorrhaging money and riders thanks to the coronavirus pandemic — and now, it also faces an imminent shortfall in state transit funding that could delay critical infrastructure projects like station renovations or new vehicle purchases.

Pa. banned license plates: The 2,000+ phrases PennDOT won’t allow you to use

Over the years, PennDOT has compiled a list of messages it will not allow on license plates, whether by some random assembly or by a mischievous driver willing to pay for a vanity plate. The list has a mind-boggling 2,330 entries.

PA Turnpike sees 46% traffic reduction during pandemic

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is seeing a revenue loss when it comes to tolls across the state. “We’ve seen a 35% decrease in revenue and a 46% decrease in traffic volumes,” Turnpike Commission spokesperson Carl DeFebo said.

Gas tax revenue drying up

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the demand for gasoline has dropped as much as 50%, inventories have risen to a record high and the price of gas continues to plunge at the pump.

 

Across Pa., highway projects set for restart

May 1, 2020 by · Comments Off on Across Pa., highway projects set for restart
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After suspending construction for six weeks due to COVID-19, contractors are preparing to restart bridge and highway projects across Pennsylvania as soon as May 1.

As construction resumes, there has been much discussion regarding the new COVID-19 safety plans. The plans, required for each individual project, must be submitted to PennDOT and accepted before work can resume.

Each construction project must have a designated a safety plan coordinator, and the contractors are responsible for keeping abreast of revisions mandated by the Centers for Disease Control, OSHA and the state Department of Health.

The plans incorporate safe-distancing requirements and other protocols designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health and safety of workers and the public. You can catch a glimpse of what a safe-distancing construction work zone looks like in this short video.

Next week, the industry will hear directly from PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian in an online meeting. Topics will include the increasingly worrisome post-pandemic PennDOT capital budget.

 

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 17

April 27, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 17
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Gas tax revenue drying up

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the demand for gasoline has dropped as much as 50%, inventories have risen to a record high and the price of gas continues to plunge at the pump.

Wolf administration announces housing and transportation funding

Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin announced new funding assistance for community development and affordable housing activities to address the COVID-19 pandemic under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Pandemic puts emergency responders in tough spot; PennDOT adapts

Nearly a quarter of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Medical Services shut down between 2012 and 2018 due to a lack of funding and not enough emergency service technicians, paramedics or volunteers to staff ambulances. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, emergency responders face exposure to patients infected by the virus and risking their own health, as well as money being even tighter.

PennDOT extending deadlines for licenses, registrations

While expiration dates on licenses and registrations were extended to the end of April, they are now through the end of May. The deadline extension also applies to safety and emissions inspections as well as learner’s permits.

Prices are plummeting at the pump. But, will it last?

Prices at the pump are plummeting as more people are staying home during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s good news for drivers and for the state when it comes to protecting public health. But, the lower gas consumption could carry long-term impacts for Pennsylvania when it comes to collecting the gas tax, which funds infrastructure and state police services.

Coronavirus restrictions drive down traffic

Welcome to another consequence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic – traffic on major roadways throughout the five-county Times News region is down significantly.

The Pa. Turnpike is seeing less traffic; it could cause big problems statewide

With fewer drivers, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is generating a lot less money from tolls. From March 22 through April 18, the turnpike commission has seen a 50 percent drop in revenue from tolls.

 

PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 16

April 20, 2020 by · Comments Off on PHIA News Digest – Vol. 5, No. 16
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Leadfoot or lightfoot, driving the open roads in a pandemic

The best way to drive safely during the pandemic is not to drive at all. But if you have to travel, several experts offered tips on how to make sure you and your loved ones get there and back safely.

Pa. Turnpike considers cutting capital budget projects, transit payments

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has experienced such sharp declines in traffic and revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that the agency is reviewing all of its expenses, including its 10-year, $5.9 billion capital improvement plans and its $450 million annual payments to the state to help pay for public transit.

Road construction in Johnstown considered ‘critical work,’ crews take extra precautions

PennDOT officials say certain construction projects are still being worked because of safety issues that need to be addressed. They are calling these projects, critical work. The Franklin Street Project is in this category.

Many road construction projects curbed due to coronavirus

The opening of the Tilghman Street Bridge was supposed to happen in June of next year. But now the nearly $22 million project, as well as many other projects, will most likely be delayed as the coronavirus has thrown a construction curveball.

Breaking down the state DOT $50B backstop

Moves by state governments to slash their budgets in the face of COVID-19 pandemic-induced revenue declines re-emphasized the need for a nearly $50 billion federally-funded fiscal “backstop,” according to analysis by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Feds award $239 million to 63 Pa. airports to help in financial recovery from coronavirus pandemic

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration is awarding $239.2 million in airport aid to commonwealth airports.

Construction curveball: Pandemic causes PennDOT, contractors to change road work protocols

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and some contractors have been collaborating for decades, using their knowledge and experience to develop working relationships and common practices at construction sites.

 

Coronavirus is the newest threat to highway funding

April 16, 2020 by · Comments Off on Coronavirus is the newest threat to highway funding
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Despite the troubles that swirl around us, there was a glimmer of positivity this week as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association released its annual report on the condition of the nation’s bridges.

In terms of the percentage of faulty bridges among all that the Commonwealth owns, Pennsylvania has fallen to fifth in the country, having held the dubious distinction of being No. 1 on the list for several years.

Act 89 of 2013 and the Public-Private Partnership known as the PA Rapid Bridge Replacement Program are largely responsible for the improvement. In 2013, Pennsylvania had more than 6,000 faulty bridges, and that number has been reduced by about half (we’re generalizing a bit here because different bridge counters have different ways for assessing and counting them).

In any event, ARTBA says the percentage of Pennsylvania’s faulty bridges has fallen to 15.3% of its total, sandwiched between South Dakota’s 17% and Louisiana’s 13.2%. Rhode Island tops the list with nearly one-quarter its spans rated as deficient. Rhode Island has 779 bridges compared with Pennsylvania’s 22,911.

Reacting to ARTBA’s report, APC’s Bob Latham noted that while the improved ranking is welcome news, there is considerable trouble on the horizon as tax revenue declines due to improving fuel efficiency, inflation increases the cost of labor and materials, and revenue raised to build and maintain highways continues to be diverted for non-transportation uses.

And a new and possibly more devastating funding challenge has raised its head. The nationwide lockdowns to fight the spread of COVID-19 are keeping people at home and their cars in the garage. It will have a yet-to-be determined negative impact on the fuel tax revenue available to repair and maintain our highways.

For the specific Pennsylvania bridge condition data, click here.

 

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