Pennsylvania is moving aggressively to embrace a future where electric vehicles play an important and critical role in meeting transportation needs. An update on Pennsylvania's approach was the highlight of the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) business meeting on July 27 in Harrisburg.
PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, P.E., noted that it was the first in-person STIC meeting since November 2019, and she applauded STIC and Technical Advisory Group (TAG) members for continuing to pursue critically needed innovations despite challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I am thrilled to be with everyone here talking about innovation," she said in her opening remarks. "It's amazing how much we have accomplished."
Secretary Gramian noted how all areas of PennDOT pursued better ways to serve the public in the face of the pandemic-generated challenges, such as with improved multimodal transportation, and driver and vehicle services initiatives.
"We are looking at a lot of things to strengthen the organization and be more creative and provide opportunities for everyone," the Secretary said.
The meeting marked the STIC's 10th anniversary and former PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, who was instrumental in the STIC's formation, offered a video tribute. Updates were provided on three successful and long-standing STIC innovations: the Salt and Snow Management Course for local governments, Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil-Integrated Bridge Systems and High Friction Surface Treatments.
The meeting also recognized outgoing and incoming TAG Leaders and featured updates on Augmented Reality in Transportation, a 2020 FHWA STIC Incentive Program funding recipient, Digital As-Builts, an Every Day Counts Round 6 (EDC-6) innovation, PennDOT's Digital Delivery Directive 2025 (3D2025) and the Lane Reservation System, an innovation currently moving through the STIC Innovation Development Process.
The Augmented Reality in Transportation initiative is looking at five different technologies that combine virtual and real worlds, provide real-time interaction and accurate 3D registration of virtual and real objects, to improve communication between field and office employees, and assist with construction inspection, structural material shop inspections, bridge inspections and incident management, as well as training and certifying bridge inspection staff.
PennDOT's Digital Delivery Directive 2025 (3D2025) aims to transition PennDOT from 2D plan sheets to 3D models, building deliverables that are human-readable and machine-readable at the same time, with the goal to use digital data throughout the project lifecycle. Digital delivery improves design quality, which reduces risk and project costs, and increases construction efficiency. It also captures and improves as-built asset information and records. As part of the EDC-6 Digital As-Builts innovation, PennDOT rolled out various pilot studies focusing on different areas, including guiderails, Existing Ground Confidence, bridge authoring, and drainage authoring to support the overall goal of 3D2025.
The Lane Reservation System innovation seeks to reduce work zone conflicts and congestion and improve work zone safety as well as traveler safety by implementing a system comparable to the restaurant reservation system OpenTable. The system will identify the effects of different types of work zones at various days of the week and times of the days and determine whether the work zone can be scheduled for the requested date and time. The system will be built using OpenStreetMap to allow use for local roads in the future.
Referencing the advances Pennsylvania is making to clear the way for further development of the infrastructure needed to support more widespread use of Electric Vehicles (EVs), Secretary Gramian stated that "Pennsylvania is well positioned to support EVs."
Natasha Fackler, PennDOT's Infrastructure Investment Coordinator, provided a detailed update Pennsylvania's plan for implementing the federally-required Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI), by first noting that the number of EVs registered in Pennsylvania has climbed to 31,022 from 9,784 in 2019.
She said Pennsylvania is in line for $171.5 million over the next five years through the NEVI program, which was authorized under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden.
Fackler noted that Pennsylvania has also identified Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) where charging stations will be located, including on all the interstates in Pennsylvania and portions of U.S. Routes 1, 15, 30 and 422.
Pennsylvania has conducted surveys and worked with stakeholders on its NEVI plan, which was submitted to the federal government in July 2022. A response is required by Oct. 1, 2022, Fackler said.