Outside-the-box and unconventional thinking is at the heart of PennDOT's Agility Program, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021. While service-for-service Agility exchanges are traditionally executed between PennDOT and local governments, innovative thinking has led to exchanges with several non-traditional PennDOT partners over the past 25 years, including airports, career and technology centers, hospitals, school districts and even volunteer fire departments.
One such non-traditional Agility exchange began with an idea from Joe Rossi, a former equipment operator in PennDOT's District 4, located in northeastern Pennsylvania. While working on the front lines for PennDOT and through his work as assistant chief and president of the Union Dale Volunteer Fire Department in Susquehanna County, Rossi saw an opportunity to help advance the agency's innovative Agility Program.
Over the years, the fire department assisted PennDOT in informal ways, by hosing off equipment and allowing PennDOT to park chipping equipment at the fire station so it could be near a project area.
With the fire department in need of significant repairs to its parking lot, it is not in a position to pay the estimated $20,000 for a full repaving.
"I inquired if there was a way PennDOT could help us with patching the parking lot, and the Agility Program was mentioned," Rossi said. "We could get involved since we had helped them in the past, and they were glad to help us."
"It was a good idea," Rossi said. "Being a volunteer fire department, we don't have the resources to go in and do pavement repairs. Not everyone knows how to do blacktop. It would've cost us a small fortune."
In return for the patching that PennDOT will perform, the fire department agreed to allow PennDOT to store chipping stones and other materials needed for nearby projects.
"We are fortunate to have such a good partner like the Union Dale Fire Department," said Erin Mazikewich, assistant highway maintenance manager in Susquehanna County. "When planning future projects, it helps to know that we may have a storage location closer to the actual job site. The reduced time in hauling from the fire department's storage location to the job site can result in more timely completion of our project. We appreciate all the fire department does in and for the community, and we're happy to be able to help them out through the Agility Program."
In addition to volunteer fire departments, the following are some other examples of PennDOT Agility Program exchanges with non-traditional partners and in some instances non-traditional services that were exchanged.
In District 1's Warren and Forest counties, PennDOT has had a long-standing Agility agreement with the Allegheny National Forest. PennDOT painted lines and did some paving on forest roads. In return, the U.S. Forest Service provided conference room space and graded some of PennDOT's dirt roads.
PennDOT's District 12 based in Uniontown had an Agility agreement with Fayette County Airport. The airport gave PennDOT space in an empty hangar that PennDOT could use for equipment and spare furniture storage and in return PennDOT painted the airport's yellow taxiway lines, did some crack sealing and sprayed herbicide for weed control.
District 12 also had an Agility agreement with the Washington County Fairgrounds in which PennDOT received storage space, and PennDOT used a flush truck to wash down bleachers and did some fairground roadway repairs.
District 5, based in Allentown, had an agreement with the Lehigh Valley International Airport. PennDOT applied salt brine to some airport roadways and received use of airport wash facility to clean PennDOT trucks. The airport also took responsibility for plowing some turning lanes into the airport.
"There have been numerous Agility success stories across Pennsylvania over the past 25 years, several with non-traditional partner organizations," said Bob Snyder, acting Agility Program manager in PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations. "PennDOT and its partner organizations, non-traditional or otherwise, have continued to recognize the potential for innovative 'win-win' opportunities to make the program work for everyone involved and ultimately benefit the citizens of the commonwealth."
Do you have an innovative Agility exchange idea? Learn more by visiting the Agility webpage on PennDOT's website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the third and final article in a series of articles celebrating the 25th Anniversary of PennDOT's Agility Program. Read the first article in this series to learn about Agility's beginning and the second article in the series to read about a long-standing and successful Agility Agreement between PennDOT and Cranberry Township, Butler County.