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PennDOT Employees Honored for Innovative Achievements

Tags: Innovations
November 21, 2023 02:00 PM
By: PennDOT Bureau of Innovations

PennDOT recently recognized employees with Innovation Awards for their efforts to improve work practices and create efficiencies. Leaders from PennDOT’s central and district offices gathered Nov. 1 to present 28 employees with Innovation Awards, and to present PennDOT’s District 6 team with the George W McAuley Jr., P.E. Award for their exceptional response to the I-95 bridge collapse in Philadelphia.

“PennDOT employees have demonstrated a tireless dedication to the Department’s mission and goals,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “I'm proud to see so many examples of that dedication and recognize these employees for their creativity in solving problems and improving processes.”

The annual Innovation Awards Ceremony recognizes some of the best and most innovative ideas cultivated and implemented by PennDOT employees across the Department. Employees who assessed and improved processes, systems and tools they were using to meet the need of Pennsylvania drivers are considered for the award. Each employee receives a custom award that represents PennDOT's appreciation for their dedication and commitment to efficient and effective operations at all levels of the organization.

The George W. McAuley Jr., P.E. Award
PennDOT’s District 6 I-95 Bridge Collapse Emergency Response Team 
To commemorate the late Executive Deputy Secretary George W. McAuley’s commitment to the continuous pursuit of innovation, this award recognizes employee-driven teams of three or more that help to promote and foster continuous improvement at PennDOT by advancing an innovation or solving a problem.

On the morning of June 11, 2023, a fuel tanker truck carrying an estimated 8,500 gallons of gasoline exited the northbound Cottman Avenue off-ramp from I-95 in Philadelphia and subsequently crashed. The explosion and intense fire caused the structure carrying the northbound lanes of I-95 to collapse.
The District 6 Regional Traffic Management Center (RTMC) was immediately engaged, and the Incident Command Center (ICC) was activated. Once the fire was extinguished, an immediate assessment of the damage was performed with an all-hands-on-deck response coming from PennDOT, the City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and others.

District 6 was recognized for their efforts to manage the situation as it evolved, assess the damage and craft an innovative reconstruction approach that utilized relatively a new material consisting of recycled foamed glass to help reopen the bridge to traffic in 12 days.

"I am incredibly proud of our District 6 team," said District 6 Executive Lou Belmonte. "The Philadelphia region's transportation network is well taken care of by our dedicated staff who work tirelessly each day to provide safe and efficient transportation for our communities."

Other Innovation Award Recipients include:
Mike Ballinger, John Moloney, and Joe Piper were awarded for their efforts to create a Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) Mobile Application. The application allows Metropolitan Planning Organizations, PennDOT Districts and PennDOT’s Bureau of Planning and Research (BPR) HPMS staff the ability to electronically collect and review annual HPMS samples using a laptop or mobile device. This allows for more accurate data and substantial time savings during the HPMS sample review season. Ultimately, this results in cost savings as less time is spent on the road and out of the office verifying samples.

Highway Administration
Phillip Hendrickson received an award for implementing the use of LiDAR in survey data collection. This innovative tool increases crew safety by allowing them to easily set up and move around a project site and capture data from a safe distance, upwards of 75 feet away from potential hazards. Project efficiency has been increased because field crews are able to capture more data in less time, resulting in reduced costs for travel and fewer overnight expenditures.

Ian Detamore was awarded for utilizing Microsoft Power BI to develop several applications in support of the Bureau of Public Transportation’s transit oversight efforts. The applications included an Admin Portal to centralize key data of the 50 transit agencies across Pennsylvania, a dotGrants Comparison Tool to allow program managers responsible for transit agency oversight to easily compare the information reported for the current period against the same information reported in previous periods, and a Ticket Analysis Tool for auditing of Service Level Agreements conformance. These tools have resulted in several efficiencies for transit agencies and BPT staff, including streamlined processes, greater accuracy and improved response times.

Driver and Vehicle Services 
Julia Pryor received an award for the design and creation of the Bureau of Driver Licensing (BDL) Support Guide. The BDL Support Guide provides employees with the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding policies, procedures or other processing guidelines right at their fingertips. This enables front-line Driver License Center employees and field support staff to quickly reference the guide and find the necessary information to assist customers efficiently.

Terrance G. Pearsall Jr., ProFM, FMP, SFP, was awarded for his idea to enhance the system that tracks deficiencies in Department-owned buildings. These improvements help to validate when deficiencies are addressed and allow for a significantly faster and less cumbersome project close out process. Due to the positive results seen from adding this feature, it's now being added to other agencies using WebiFM, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. 

District 1
Josh Austin, Saxon Daugherty, Jill Harry, and Vincent Mazzocchi, P.E., were awarded for their work on a modernized visitor sign-in system at the district office that utilizes QR codes and smartphones.

District 2
Morgan Whited was awarded for her work in creating new maps denoting areas that are not to be mowed and allowed to become naturalized. “No Mow Maps” are an on-hand, readily available resource for county crews.

District 3
Todd Hardy was awarded for his innovative idea to use emergency grout bags for repairs when there is undermining of bridge substructures. Use of the grout bags saves time and helps minimize impacts to the traveling public by shortening the length of potential bridge closures. 

District 4
Michael Heller was awarded for improving safety and saving money by renting culvert cleaners instead of a flush truck to clear blocked culverts quickly and efficiently. The culvert cleaners can also be used for more applications than a flush truck. In 60 hours of use, District 4 realized a cost savings of nearly $5,650 in rental equipment costs by using a culvert cleaner instead of a flush truck.

District 5
Michael Haney was awarded for saving $210,000 through the purchase of a STRATOS Asphalt Distributor Trailer to be used in place of a Truck Mounted Asphalt Distributor. District 5 is expected to save $12,000 per year in maintenance costs moving forward.

District 6
Jacob Knapp and Joe Rudi received an award for the use of Fiber Modified Courses (FMC) mix with standard asphalt as an alternative to the polymer-modified Superpave Asphalt Mixture Design. The FMC mix gives suppliers an alternative method for achieving design performance and leads to lower bids and longer paving seasons.

District 8
Paula Beatty received an award for suggesting additional functionality be added to the PA VideoLog system, making it a more productive and user-friendly system.

District 9
James T. Pruss Jr., P.E. and Scott A. Roberts, P.E., were awarded for their work in creating a cost-effective solution for tracking project deliverables. This unique solution offers a user-friendly automation for project delivery personnel and provides real-time management reports on key project delivery metrics.

District 10
Timothy Clevenger was awarded for his innovative idea to purchase an excavator-mounted tree shearer in an effort to increase safety and production during tree removal operations within the Department's Right-of-Way. The tree shear removes trees up to 15" in diameter and allows for the removal of 30 or more trees per shift. Most importantly, it allows for safe placement of the tree on the ground where finish sawing and chipping can occur.

District 11
Ben DeVore, P.E., was awarded for the implementation of the HAAS Alert Safety Cloud, a Responder-to-Vehicle system that alerts motorists using the Waze app of first responders at incidents when emergency lights are activated. The use of this system helps to protect tunnel staff and first responders during incidents.

District 12
William "Dale" Baird, Jeffrey Edmonds, Ryan S. Medvitz, P.E., Brandon Ross, Matthew Walker, and Thomas Younkin were awarded for their efforts to reboot and reinvigorate the Spring Foreman Safety Summit after a 3-year hiatus stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The interactive format, which consisted of materials, discussions and demonstrations to improve operations and safety, received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees.