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Meet Brian Wall; Research Division Manager for PennDOT's Bureau of Planning and Research

August 07, 2020 08:00 AM
By: Larry Shifflet

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​Brian Wall is the Research Division Manager for PennDOT's Bureau of Planning and Research. He has been with us for 17 years. Prior to joining the department, Brian worked for 20 years in the food and beverage service industry.

What knowledge was gained from Wall's past experiences that can be applied to his career with PennDOT? Brian says there are many, but the top three are:

  • Never ever judge a book by its cover. You have to consistently treat others as you would want to be treated. Though it sounds easy, in practice it really requires constant attention every day.
  • The importance of being flexible. You never really knew exactly what you would be doing on any given day. 
  • The most important is never ask anybody to do anything that you aren't willing to help with or have already done yourself.

Brian Wall's PennDOT Journey

Wall started his PennDOT career working with the Center for Program Development and Management (CPDM) as a Transportation Planning Specialist Trainee in the Air Quality and Federal Initiatives Section. During that year, Pennsylvania was involved in planning and hosting the AASHTO National Convention in Philadelphia. He remembers it being a super fun event and a chance for PennDOT to shine among their peers. If you visit his cube today, you will still find a sign that was taken from the “war room" with the motto “NO PROBLEM." That is the response we were asked to give our guests when they made a request, no matter what is was. It's simple, but impactful.

For the next 10 years, Wall progressed through the Transportation Planning Specialist series in the CPDM in the Statewide Planning section where he was involved the development and implementation of three of the now five iterations of the Statewide Long Range Transportation Plan. This included the Penn Plan, the Mobility Plan, and PA on Track which included the development of PennDOT's first Comprehensive Freight Movement Plan.

Other projects included initial the development of the Linking Planning and NEPA System, integration of transportation and land use mainly through offering handbooks and training materials to Pennsylvania municipalities, and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank. From the planning and land use initiatives in which he was involved, Brian learned the importance of listening to colleagues and stakeholders who were engaged in those efforts. He received immense knowledge from intelligent and talented planners and engineers across the state.

In 2015, Wall transitioned to the Bureau of Planning and Research to become the Transportation Planning Manager in the Municipal Research and Outreach Section.

"There was a lot of risk versus reward involved in making that decision. I really had to rely on the phenomenal career development training that PennDOT and the Commonwealth offers through the Keystone Academy of Learning," said Wall. "Through those efforts, I was able to focus on where I was and what I wanted to achieve in my career. After taking an honest look at my organization's structure and my career development plan at that time, it was clear that I had to take that risk."

“There was a tremendous learning curve and some personal challenges that I had to overcome in a relatively short period of time," he continued. "I really struggled through that first year and I was humbled by the amount of support I received–not only from those working in section but from others across PennDOT, including Department leadership."

Brian Wall was awarded the Star of Excellence in 2016.

In early 2020, Wall was offered his current position as manager of the Research Division in the Bureau of Planning and Research. As Research Division Manager, he is responsible for the Program Management section in addition to the Municipal Research and Outreach section. The Research Division creates, implements and manages the Department's biennial Research Program, works with institutions of higher education who perform research for the Department, runs the state's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), oversees a New Products for Low Volume Roads contract, organizes the quarterly Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) meetings and is in charge of the contract to provide PennDOT Connects training to local municipalities.

Fun Fact!

People may be surprised to learn that Wall hasn't owned a vehicle for more than 30 years. 

"I would like to be able to say that there was some raised level of environmental consciousness involved when I made that decision, but there wasn't," said Wall. "I was living in Pittsburgh at the time and simply couldn't afford to pay for parking, let alone insurance during that time."

In the past 3 decades, he's never missed having a vehicle. Prior to teleworking due to COVID-19, Wall enjoyed his 17-minute commute to the Keystone Building in Harrisburg.

"In the morning, it allows for me to think about what needs to be accomplished for the day. And to decompress as I return home in the evening, which I don't think I could do if I were focused on driving," said Wall about his daily commute. "It really feels that the world is catching up to my way of thinking over the past decade with the rise of Uber and front door delivery services."

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