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New tool provides highway investment info

June 26, 2020

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association launched a tool this week that highlights the benefits of highway investment across the country.

It shows that Pennsylvania leveraged nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds to spur more than $2.2 billion in highway improvements in the 2018 fiscal year.

Called the ARTBA Highway Dashboard, the tool is designed to provide elected officials and the public with information about how and where states invest their transportation tax dollars. The tool comes as we approach the expiration of the federal FAST Act surface transportation law on Sept. 30.

In Pennsylvania, two-thirds of the cost of projects was for reconstruction or repair work on existing roads. Planning, design and engineering accounted for 13%, added capacity 12% and new construction 1%.

“This tool provides useful information for the public and policymakers as we get closer to the time that decisions on funding will need to be made,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Sound decisions start with sound data, so we’re pleased to have it available.”

To view the ARTBA Highway Dashboard, click here.

ARTBA is a national trade association for the highway industry, with more than 8,000 public and private-sector members.



26,000 work zone speeding violations since March

June 12, 2020

PennDOT reports that some 26,000 vehicle owners have received violation notices for speeding through work zones since Pennsylvania’s automated speed enforcement program went live in March.

The information comes by way of a feature story by Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV, quoting a PennDOT District 11 official. He said about 10 percent of the violations were repeat offenders.

Because the first violation draws a warning rather than a fine, the vast majority of violators have escaped a hit to their wallets – so far. It’s also worth noting that, while 26,000 seems like a large number at first, consider that traffic volumes during the coronavirus pandemic have been significantly less than typical.

The process is triggered when vehicles drive through the work zones at more than 11 miles per hour over the speed limit. A second offense draws a $75 fine, and subsequent violations are $150 each.

“We would expect the violation numbers will increase significantly as the Covid-19 lockdown ends,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Then, once drivers become familiar with the program, they’ll probably begin falling, as was the experience in Maryland.”

Click here to view the entire news story.



Transportation advocates searching for truck-parking solutions

May 28, 2020

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


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

May 15, 2020

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.




Across Pa., highway projects set for restart

May 1, 2020

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.