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In 2011 PennDOT embraced a new way of doing business focused on better integration of project planning with PennDOT's preliminary engineering process, a significant component of which is consideration of environmental resources in keeping with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The new process, called Linking Planning and NEPA (LPN) embraced joint costing and scheduling and addressed U.S. DOT SAFETEA-LU legislation (2005) aimed at streamlining project delivery while embracing planning which considers the environment. The policy incorporated the existing "smart transportation" and "right-sizing" programs aimed at building better projects with cost containment in mind.
LPN worked well with PennDOT's "Safety First" policies put in place in the first decades of the 2000s as well as goals of preserving existing investments. LPN sought to encourage sustainable, livable communities and to develop local governments as land use partners.
As a state that has always been at the forefront of innovation and industry, it should come as no surprise that Pennsylvania is at the very epicenter of the rise in Highly Automated Vehicle (HAV) technology. Pennsylvania's world-class research universities have continually served as a breeding ground for technological advances, with Carnegie Mellon University known as the "birthplace of self-driving vehicles" and the University of Pennsylvania's robotics research program is renowned worldwide. Without doubt, Pennsylvania has emerged as a leading location for on‐road testing of HAVs as they steadily advance toward practical use.
In 2011 PennDOT established the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC) which focused on recommending a funding plan to address Pennsylvania's aging highway and bridge infrastructure, including the funding gap that resulted from the elimination of I-80 tolling.
Funding of an aging infrastructure has led PennDOT, particularly since TFAC, to initiate measures to contain costs and to seek all means to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible while addressing the needs of a modern transportation system. A key element of this strategy is the modernization of both administrative processes and technology. PennDOT has worked, particularly since 2010, to identify opportunities for improvement in all facets of operations, while also addressing safety and mobility needs.
Part of House Bill 1060, Act 89 was signed into law in 2013, creating Pennsylvania's most comprehensive piece of state transportation legislation in decades. This legislation invested an additional $2.3 billion in funding over a 5-year period for road and bridge projects.
Partial funding for the new transportation package is being derived from the elimination of the flat 12-cent gas tax and modernizing an outdated transportation financing structure through the uncapping of the wholesale, Oil Company Franchise Tax. The act also increased resources for transit and created a dedicated Multimodal Fund for non-highway modes' capital needs.
Act 89 demonstrates a commitment to bringing the statewide transportation system into a state of good repair. More details are available on our Act 89 Transportation Plan page.
The Distracted Driving Law took effect in March 2012.
The law addressed the dangerous habit of texting while behind the wheel.
Distracted driving is any action that draws attention away from the safe
operation of a vehicle. Texting involves three types of driver distractions:
visual, causing drivers to take their eyes off the road; manual, causing
drivers to take their hands off the wheel; and cognitive, causing drivers to
take their mind off the road. The Distracted Driving Law prohibits text-based
communication while driving and makes texting while driving a primary offense,
carrying a $50 fine.
Pennsylvania's 4-foot passing law was created as part of Act 3 of 2012. This law states that motor vehicles must allow 4 feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle, traveling at a careful and prudent speed. It is the motorist's responsibility to provide this distance, not that of the cyclist. Act 3 also allows motorists to cross the double yellow line in a no-passing zone to allow the required 4 feet of space, and it prevents cyclists from being prosecuted for traveling at less than the prevailing speed when "controlling" the lane.
Act 3 also amended Title 75 in another important way - it allowed a bicyclist to use any portion of the lane if there is only one lane in his/her direction of travel.
Act 89 of 2013 established dedicated funding for investment in rail freight and maritime ports through programs that are managed by the Multimodal Deputate. Governor Wolf established the Governor's Office of Ports and Rail – the Commonwealth's agency for coordinating all port and port-related, and rail and rail-related issues in Pennsylvania. Prior to 2013, the Governor's Office of PennPORTS was located within the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Dedicated funding in the amount of $10 million annually is available for port-related activities, including operating and capital projects at Pennsylvania's three ports.
Beginning July 1, 2013, PennDOT's state-of-the-art processing and mailing infrastructure began processing DCNR's renewals for consumer snowmobiles, ATVs and dealer registrations. Applicants still mail applications to DCNR, but they are now opened, processed and fulfilled by PennDOT. Customers receive their ATV and snowmobile vehicle registration renewals 2-4 weeks faster through this new interagency partnership.
Act 89 of 2013 eliminated the Aviation Deputate, Rail Freight Deputate, and the Local and Area Transportation Deputate (which included Municipal Services and Public Transit) and established the Multimodal Deputate in their place. The Multimodal Deputate is responsible for all non-highway modes of transportation and freight movement, including Aviation, Public Transportation (local bus, intercity bus, passenger rail, and community/shared-ride transportation), Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways (previously managed by DCED), Bike/Ped (previously managed by the Highway Administration Deputate) and the new Multimodal Program.
A key goal of reorganization was to formally establish a centralized administrative unit serving the entire Deputate. The administrative unit is responsible for budget, grant management, procurement, ECMS procurement and contract management, HR, travel, training, etc.
In 2013, Act 89 also established a dedicated Multimodal Transportation Fund that stabilizes funding for ports and rail freight, increases aviation investments, establishes dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and allows targeted funding for priority investments in any mode.
Act 89 established the Multimodal Transportation Fund which includes $40 million annually for a competitive grant program for projects in any mode. The Multimodal Transportation Fund Statewide Grant Program provides grants to ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of this commonwealth.
Grants support improvements to highway and bridge, public transportation, aviation, freight and passenger rail, ports, and bike and pedestrian projects. Funding is for projects that coordinate local land use with transportation assets to enhance existing communities; projects related to streetscape, lighting, sidewalks, and pedestrian safety; projects improving connectivity or utilization of existing transportation assets; and projects related to transit-oriented development.
Since program inception in FY 2014/15, PennDOT has awarded grants to 252 projects, totaling $261.1 million through FY 2020/21. During that time, applicants have submitted a total of 1,325 applications, requesting a total of $1.571 billion from the Multimodal Transportation Fund.
In 2013 PennDOT launched a $1.1 billion Rapid Bridge Replacement project to tackle a continued backlog of structurally deficient bridges. The initiative replaced 558 bridges through a public-private-partnership. The initiative included an aesthetic plan to create a group identity for these bridges including unique stamping to denote this collaborative public-private initiative.
In the first two decades of the 20th century PennDOT has demonstrated a commitment to be a leader in innovation, safety and efficiency in the building and maintenance of our highway infrastructure - with no plans to change in the next 50 years.
Act 44 of 2007 dictated that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would provide $150 million annually in funding for mass transit. Act 89 of 2013 extended and increased funding to $450 million annually from the Turnpike through June 30, 2021, at which point, the contribution from the Turnpike is reduced to $50 million annually.
Act 170 of 2014 was passed in October 2014, giving PennDOT the option of allowing non-commercial third-party testing. PennDOT currently has 42 third-party non-commercial testers across the state.
A pilot program was launched in May 2016, authorizing a limited number of third-party businesses to administer non-commercial driving skills tests to Pennsylvania resident permit holders who successfully met the criteria to obtain a license. The third-party non-commercial testing program was an 18-month pilot that involved ten (10) testing sites throughout the state. The testing sites, selected based on demand for testing, were located in Allegheny, Butler, Bucks, Carbon, Delaware, Erie, Lancaster and Montgomery counties. PennDOT provided close oversight of the participating entities and completed performance audits and site visits to ensure compliance with laws and established policies designed to ensure new drivers are prepared for the challenges of the road.
While there is no charge for taking a driving skills test at a PennDOT Driver License Center, third-party business partners charge a market driven fee for administering the test. All examiners are PennDOT-certified, and the test itself is identical to what a customer would receive at a Driver License Center.
Operational efficiencies from employing UAS (drones) is being validated at an unprecedented rate by state transportation agencies across America. Several Commonwealth agencies are already using UAS for mission requirements, including PennDOT, and several others are looking to do the same. Within PennDOT, a UAS Steering Committee has been formed to develop a multi-year strategic plan for deploying the UAS technology.
To sustain this statewide initiative, PennDOT will continue to explore various federal and state funding mechanisms. PennDOT was awarded $100,000 of FHWA STIC Incentive Funding. A portion of this funding may be used for the UAS initiative.
This tool was rolled out to transit agencies in Pennsylvania on June 1, 2015. The CPT provides agencies with an electronic, web-based system that allows them to store and view asset records and manage and plan for transportation assets. It allowed some agencies to transition from paper records to electronic records for the first time. With all agencies' capital assets accounted for in the CPT, PennDOT's Bureau of Public Transportation (BPT) can analyze transportation asset needs on a statewide level and plan more globally for state of good repair with an asset maintenance spending plan, as mandated by Act 44 of 2007.
The CPT was the result of a four-year transit capital plan, developed in coordination with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT).
In 2016 PennDOT adopted the most recent long-range transportation plan called PA On Track. PA On Track sought to preserve and improve accessibility and connectivity for all transportation modes. It incorporated performance-based planning to enable PennDOT to more efficiently track system performance over time.
The plan included a new project prioritization process framework to enable PennDOT to prioritize regional and statewide significant projects, and score a project's technical merit and projected economic impact. The tool enables PennDOT to more objectively evaluate the merits of candidate projects. Among the priorities of the plan are investments in the interstate highway system which is critical to Pennsylvania's economy.
Secretary Leslie S. Richards established the concept called PennDOT
Connects, which developed into the new planning process for all bridge and
highway projects, replacing the LPN process that was established in 2011.
PennDOT Connects embraces the philosophy of earlier and better
conversations with stakeholders as a means to achieve better and, in many
cases, more cost-effective, projects.
PennDOT and our planning partners meet with local governments to discuss
details for each project prior to developing project scopes and estimates. The process, which includes a robust GIS
based mapping engine and database, encourages greater consideration of all
mobility needs including bicycle, pedestrian, and freight, as well as
operations, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), utilities, community
health, stormwater management, and green infrastructure that seeks to minimize
harm to environmental, cultural and community resources.
PennDOT Connects builds partnerships that
invest in sustainable transportation; leverages resources to improve communities;
leads and innovates for a more livable Pennsylvania; and delivers projects that
improve economic competitiveness, access to work, and overall quality of life.
PennDOT assembled the "Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force," made up of a diverse and comprehensive set of stakeholders, including representatives from federal, state and local government, law enforcement, technology companies, higher education, manufacturers, motorists and trucking groups, and academic research institutions.
On March 28, 2016, PennDOT announced its partnership with Trillium to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations through a 20-year, $84.5 million public-private partnership (P3) agreement. The P3 procurement mechanism allows PennDOT to install the fueling stations faster than if a traditional procurement mechanism had been used for each individual site, resulting in significant capital cost savings of more than $46 million.
It is anticipated that 29 fueling stations will be built through this partnership, five of which will be accessible to the public. As of December 31, 2019, 15 CNG stations for transit agency fueling have been completed and are in service. At four of these locations, dispensers are also available for public usage.
Act 89 of 2013 called for the elimination of vehicle registration stickers by 2017. As of December 31, 2016, vehicles owners were no longer required to display a registration sticker on their license plates. Customers still need to have their vehicles registered and inspected, but they're not required to display a registration sticker on their license plate.
The estimated first year savings resulting from the change was approximately $3.1 million. Eliminating the need to mail customers a registration sticker, coupled with the ability to print their registration card on demand when renewing their registration online, eliminated more than $2 million per year in mailing costs. In addition, the elimination of the registration stickers saved $1 million a year in product costs.
The testing guidance was the result of months of collaboration among state, federal, and private-industry officials — such as the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and General Motors — in the Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force. The guidance was updated in 2020, again in collaboration with stakeholders and industry partners.
Additionally, Act 117 of 2018 was signed into law allowing for the deployment of automated work zone vehicles and platooning vehicles. Under this law, up to three (3) vehicles may platoon together, given that they have submitted a Platoon Operations Plan. A platoon is defined as two (2) or three (3) buses, military vehicles or motor carrier vehicles traveling in a unified manner at electronically coordinated speeds at following distances that are closer than would be reasonable and prudent without the coordination.
In February 2018, PennDOT completed the statewide implementation of Ecolane DRT, a scheduling and dispatch software for demand-response transportation. The statewide implementation of this scheduling platform offers numerous advantages including:
- Reduced procurement costs
- Standardized service levels
- Enhanced customer service
- Improved ability to coordinate service across county lines and use of an automated call system
The use of a common scheduling platform also allows for several other statewide technology-based initiatives, such as the FindMyRidePA and Rides to Wellness projects. These federally-funded projects aim to reduce transportation barriers facing transit-dependent individuals in the Commonwealth.
The Fixed Route Intelligent Transit System (FR-ITS) program, launched in 2018, is a statewide technology implementation project that will provide Pennsylvania's fixed route transit agencies with cutting edge technology solutions that enhance the agencies' abilities to provide exceptional service and achieve operational efficiencies. FR-ITS will be implemented at 32 of the 34 fixed route agencies in Pennsylvania, with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) continuing to utilize their well-established technology platforms.
FR-ITS will implement a full suite of technology including computer-aided dispatch (CAD), automatic vehicle location (AVL), video surveillance, real-time passenger information, scheduling software, transit planning software, and other components.
The project also features enhanced data analysis and reporting capabilities through business intelligence tools and allows for the creation of one statewide data repository. This enhanced data analysis and reporting capability will allow all agencies to make informed decisions to improve service efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, the statewide data repository, enabled through all agencies sharing a single technology platform, will allow PennDOT to collect and analyze data for all agencies into one location to better inform statewide public transportation decision-making. This capability provides unprecedented reporting capabilities for PennDOT and greatly reduces the burden on agencies to provide data and reports to PennDOT.
In late 2019, PennDOT completed its first Active Transportation Plan for Pennsylvania. It outlines a vision and framework for improving conditions for walking and bicycling across Pennsylvania, most notably for those Pennsylvanians who walk and bicycle out of necessity rather than for leisure and recreation. The document identifies and prioritizes strategies that will promote more bicyclists and pedestrians, while supporting safety and multimodal connectivity.
In July 2020, PennDOT implemented a systematic process for non-binary gender designations, offering driver licenses and identification cards with a gender-neutral designations. Customers can now choose that option in addition to the "male" or "female" designation. Customers who wish to change a current license or ID card can fill out Form DL-32. A customer requesting to change their gender designation can self-certify gender on the DL-32 form and bring it to any PennDOT driver license center to complete the process. Appropriate product replacement fees apply for a duplicate driver's license or photo ID product. PennDOT joins 16 other states offering a non-binary option on state-issued licenses or cards.
The Smart Belt Coalition (SBC), a collaboration between transportation agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), as well as educational institutions in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, conducted an automated truck platooning demonstration that began in Pittsburgh and ended in Michigan. The SBC partnered with Pittsburgh-based technology firm Locomation to complete the demonstration.