Pennsylvania's ongoing efforts to develop and implement more efficient and modern ways of delivering the best in transportation services were highlighted July 26 at the latest meeting of the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC).
"PennDOT is populated with unbelievable talent, and has wonderful partners, starting with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which was on full display to help with the I-95 bridge collapse earlier this year," PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said during the meeting. "Projects like this do not happen without full and complete support from FHWA and our partners in the consulting and contracting world."
The meeting featured the announcement of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Every Day Counts Round 7 (EDC-7) innovations PennDOT has selected to pursue as well as the 2023 FHWA STIC Incentive Program funding recipients. The meeting also included the introduction of a new STIC innovation as well as updates on current STIC innovations and the project recipient of the 2022 STIC Incentive Program funding, and highlighted other innovative projects that have been completed across the state.
Following the announcement of the EDC-7 innovations, the two project recipients of the 2023 FHWA STIC Incentive Program were also announced – Teen Driver Work Zone Safety Course and Construction CMS Queue Protection Corridor Integration. The STIC Incentive Program funding offers up to $100,000 annually to help states offset the costs of standardizing innovative practices. Each of the 2023 recipient projects will receive $50,000.
PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) will utilize the funding to collaboratively develop and implement a Pennsylvania-specific
. Based on a free national course, this training will help teens better understand common types of work zone crashes and which driving habits can be used to better prevent these incidents.
The Construction CMS Queue Protection Corridor Integration project will use the STIC Incentive Program funding to purchase and install PennDOT-owned 4G cell modems and/or SIM cards into contractor project work zone Portable Changeable Message Signs (PCMS). This will allow Regional Traffic Management Centers to view and change the work zone signs, and the work zone signs to be added to the corridor management tool in PennDOT's Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS). The signs can then be set up to operate as a queue detection system. There are several projects where this technology could be used.
To highlight how far the STIC Incentive Program funding can go in advancing innovation in Pennsylvania, John Myler, assistant construction manager, PennDOT District 11, presented on the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags pilot project, which received the funding in 2022. The RFID Tags pilot project, designed to track and manage assets, is currently more than 60% completed. Myler provided an overview of the pilot project and shared how the use of RFID tags aligns with other initiatives PennDOT is currently pursuing, including e-Construction and Partnering and the Digital Delivery Directive 2025, and the need to capture and leverage a large amount of data moving forward.
"It requires learning what these different RFID tags are used for and understanding the limitations each one has versus another," Myler said. "All tags have benefits depending on how you intend to use them. Some tags can be recycled and reused, some can be read without seeing them, and most are durable and can last over time."
Following Myler's presentation, Mary Robbins, Ph.D., P.E., of the Pennsylvania Asphalt Pavement Association presented on Cold Central Plant Recycle (CCPR) of Asphalt Flexible Pavements, a new innovation being introduced by the STIC's Construction and Materials TAG. The presentation included an overview of the process and its benefits, as well as a holistic view of which recycled asphalt options are most appropriate given the variety of possible situations.
According to Dr. Robbins, CCPR uses 100 % Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement (RAP), a material deemed of beneficial use by the Department of Environmental Protection, to create a new flexible asphalt base that provides almost the same structural capacity as a hot mix asphalt base while reducing carbon emissions.
"CCPR is great for pavements that are in fair condition, being the pavement structure has moderate to severe distresses, but is not quite at the end of life, and the underlying materials are considered to still be in good condition," Dr. Robbins said. "It is not meant to be a final wearing surface, so while it might be open to traffic during construction, it should be topped with an asphalt overlay or surface treatment."
The Construction and Materials TAG is looking to pilot CCPR on higher volume roads in PennDOT districts where most of the RAP is stockpiled, to show that it is a cost-effective and sustainable solution for future use. Projects using CCPR in Virginia on Interstates 64 and 81 saw significant costs savings and sections of those Interstates completed in a much shorter timeframe.
In addition to the new STIC innovation, the meeting included a presentation on a current STIC innovation under development – Snow Plow Cameras and Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL). Maintenance TAG Leader, Matt Burkett, PennDOT District 10, provided an update on the innovation that is currently being piloted on various vehicles in PennDOT Districts 10 and 11.
"The cameras are intended to increase real-time situational awareness for districts, counties, area command and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) staff to more consistently determine if restrictions need to be placed, such as speed restrictions or lane restrictions," Burkett said. "The plan is to also integrate camera images into 511PA to provide motorists with real-time access to road conditions to improve decision-making." Currently 40 snow plows, three paint trucks, and 27 assistant highway maintenance manager vehicles are equipped with the monitoring technology.
Following Burkett's presentation, two projects that received innovation awards in 2022 were highlighted – the I-579 Urban Space Cap Project and the I-70 and Route 51 Emergency Bridge Repair.
Winner of the national grand prize in the 2022 American Transportation Awards competition, the I-579 Urban Space Cap Project sought to reconnect downtown Pittsburgh to one of the most important minority communities in the city, the Hill District, which was disconnected when the highway was built in the 1950s.
According to Project Manager Bob Byrnes, P.E., PennDOT District 11 and Nick Burdette, P.E., HDR Inc, design consultant on the project, the plan was to build a bridge over the existing highway and build a 3-acre park on top of the bridge to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to access downtown. Using innovative design and construction approaches, three separate structures were built to bridge the concrete canyon and create a tree-lined park featuring rain gardens, art, story walls, an outdoor classroom, an amphitheater and integrated seating.
"I believe that since this project was such a success, and awards were won, the City of Pittsburgh will want to do more projects of a similar nature," Burdette said. There is a section south of the city that is raised and currently separates two neighborhoods. The City of Pittsburgh is already looking at options to lower the highway or possibly create more access underneath."
Jeremy Hughes, P.E., District 12 bridge engineer, presented on the Emergency Bridge Repair on State Route (SR) 51 over Interstate 70, which won PennDOT's George McAuley Innovation Award in 2022. The 3-span steel bridge, built in 1954 and rehabbed in 1989, was severely damaged when a tractor trailer hit one of the bridge beams. Sharing some best practices and lessons learned, Hughes reviewed the steps taken to determine the extent of the damage and subsequent unique course of action to address the bridge hit and complete the emergency repair in just 78 days.
For more information on the STIC, visit www.penndot.pa.gov/stic.