Before I became Secretary at PennDOT, a county commissioner, or a township supervisor, I was a project manager at a civil engineering firm. My job was to help plan infrastructure projects for communities of all shapes and sizes, and it is something I love to do. A well-planned community sustains a high quality of life for residents, promotes economic development, and is conscientious of the local environment. Transportation planning can strongly impact the way a community operates. My planning background is one reason why I'm so excited about one of PennDOT's latest initiative called PennDOT Connects.
Simply put, PennDOT Connects means we are going to become better planners — talking to our partners at the local, county, and regional level earlier in the process so that we can hopefully deliver an asset that the community truly feels is an asset, and really fits in the fabric of the neighborhood.
In the past, we'd get through a good chunk of design for a project and something would come up when talking to our partners — the township wants a pedestrian walkway or new street lights — and it could ultimately affect our project delivery. With PennDOT Connects, we should avoid some of these surprises. And while we won't be able to accommodate every request, we'll end up with more inclusive projects.
We want every project to be considered in a holistic way to look for opportunities to improve safety, mobility, access, and environmental outcomes for all modes of transportation, including bicycles, pedestrians, transit, utilities, and community health. Earlier collaboration will ensure that projects meet current and projected needs as much as possible, and can reduce costly changes further in the project development process.
My talented team has already begun implementing PennDOT Connects on projects that haven't yet begun preliminary engineering, or just recently started the process. We expect it will impact 280 projects currently on our Transportation Improvement Program.
Some examples of recent projects that exemplifty the principles of PennDOT Connects are:
- Freeport Bridge Project in Armstrong, Allegheny, and Westmoreland counties. There now are five trails connected by the Freeport Bridge, as well as new sidewalks into Freeport Borough.
- Union Avenue over Mill Run Bridge in Blair County. After collaboration with the City of Altoona and Logan Township, we incorporated pedestrian accommodations — crosswalks and a pedestrian signal — along the PA 36 and Plan Road/Pleasant Valley Boulevard intersection.
- State Route 611 Retaining Wall in Monroe County. PennDOT is working with the Liberty-Water Gap Trail team to potentially incorporate a retaining wall as part of its planned trail along the Delaware River.
All projects on our 2017-2020 TIP can be found at www.projects.penndot.gov.
As we continue to refine this process, I am hopeful that we will be able to truly create a spirit of collaboration that we've never seen before in Pennsylvania.
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