STIC Year-End Report

Yassmin Gramian, P.E., PennDOT Secretary
Alicia Nolan, FHWA Division Administrator
Welcome to the 2019 STIC Year-End Report

A Message from the STIC Co-Chairs

We have much to be proud of regarding the ongoing success of the Pennsylvania State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC), a vital collaborative effort of many partners working diligently to improve transportation for the people of Pennsylvania. This year-end report highlights how far we have moved the needle of innovation in 2019 thanks to the varied contributions of many dedicated transportation officials in both the public and private sectors.

In October, the Pennsylvania STIC received its second STIC Excellence Award from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Center for Accelerating Innovation. We were recognized for the STIC Moving Forward strategic plan, which provided a framework to reorganize and rightsize the STIC, leading to an enhanced organizational structure with increased energy and enthusiasm, especially in the STIC's Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs). This plan also established a linkage to Pennsylvania's New Products Evaluation Process, industry Quality Improvement Committees and our Transportation Quality Initiative.

Our thanks to the work and dedication shown this past year by the TAGs that continued to move six innovations introduced in 2018 through the STIC's Innovation Development Process; one of the six advanced for full deployment this year, and the other five made noteworthy progress forward. The TAGs also introduced three new innovations in 2019 and have begun work on those innovations as well.

At its July business meeting, the STIC hosted four vendors to demonstrate their respective Hot Pour Mastics products to STIC members, and federal, state and local transportation officials in a unique, side by side presentation on the Pennsylvania State Hospital Grounds in Harrisburg. These products have been deployed through pilot efforts and are growing in use statewide.

As part of the Pennsylvania STIC's commitment to the FHWA's Every Day Counts (EDC) program, we have continued to work diligently on implementing a variety of EDC Rounds 4 and 5 innovations. Among our current EDC innovations, PennDOT has been working with FHWA, other state agencies and industry stakeholders to develop a comprehensive management plan for implementing Pennsylvania's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program.

In November, STIC members participated in an interactive discussion to list concerns and opportunities relative to transportation in Pennsylvania. Moving ahead, the STIC will discuss innovations that may help to address these challenges in the future.

As we end one year and begin another, the STIC would like to offer its sincerest gratitude and appreciation to Leslie S. Richards, former PennDOT Secretary and co-chair of the STIC, for her five years of outstanding guidance and support. Her leadership and support has helped the Pennsylvania STIC continue to build its reputation as a national leader in innovation.

As we look ahead to 2020, the STIC will continue its renewed focus on developing and deploying well-researched, proven and documented innovations across Pennsylvania. For all those involved in the STIC's success over the past year, we commend your efforts and encourage you to continue leading the way through innovation.

STIC attendees at a business meeeting.

Innovation is Moving Pennsylvania Forward

Pennsylvania's State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) remains unique in its approach to transportation innovation. In addition to supporting and promoting the deployment of Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) innovations since its inception in 2012, the Pennsylvania STIC also looks beyond EDC innovations to identify other innovations at the local, state, national and international levels for statewide implementation.

Chaired by the PennDOT Secretary and FHWA Pennsylvania Division Administrator, the STIC works to develop and deploy innovations that improve roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, accelerate construction, improve project delivery and enhance sustainability. In addition to PennDOT, FHWA and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), STIC members represent academia, other federal and state agencies, planning partners, local public agencies, contractors, and consultants.

Thanks to the hard work of the STIC's Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), who assist in evaluating, developing, promoting and deploying innovations, three new innovations were introduced in 2019, bringing the total innovations under development to nine. In November 2019, the Stormwater Management Training and Field Guidebook, was the first innovation to advance through the STIC Innovation Development Process outlined in the STIC Moving Forward strategic plan.

The STIC Moving Forward strategic plan, unveiled in 2018, reorganized, reenergized and rightsized the STIC, increasing participation by PennDOT employees and other transportation partners and re-emphasizing the development of well-researched, proven and documented innovations. In 2019, the STIC began assessing results of the strategic plan and effectiveness of the STIC Innovation Development Process to identify further refinements moving forward.

Technical Advisory Groups

Working Together to Foster Innovation

The Pennsylvania STIC includes four Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs), which meet regularly to evaluate and develop innovations for deployment across Pennsylvania. Each TAG has a TAG Leader and an Assistant TAG Leader, and TAG Members that include representatives from PennDOT, FHWA, industry, academia, and other state or federal agencies. The TAGs are responsible for guiding innovations through the STIC Innovation Development Process.


Construction & Materials


Safety & Traffic Operations
Every Day Counts

Pennsylvania's Pursuit of National Innovations

FHWA's Every Day Counts (EDC) program is a state-based initiative that identifies and deploys proven, but underutilized innovations from across the country, saving time, money, and resources that can be used to deliver more projects. Every two years, FHWA hosts regional summits where states learn about the next round of innovations. Following the summits, states finalize their selection of innovations and establish implementation performance goals over a two-year cycle. In 2019, Pennsylvania selected four EDC Round 5 (EDC-5) innovations to explore and advance throughout the state.

Featured Innovation

Taking Hydraulic Modeling to the Next Dimension

Traditionally, engineers and designers use one-dimensional (1D) hydraulic modeling, but two-dimensional (2D) modeling tools are available to improve the understanding of interactions between waterways and infrastructure. FHWA's "CHANGE: Collaborative Hydraulics: Advancing to the Next Generation of Engineering" innovation is encouraging the shift from 1D to 2D modeling. Originally introduced as part of EDC-4, this EDC-5 innovation has been performed, in part, as 2D modeling on more than a dozen projects in Pennsylvania over the last 15 years.

2D modeling uses thousands of elements to represent floodplain geometry, and computations are done at each element. The 2D models provide more detailed results than 1D models and also contain graphic visualization features, which can better communicate modeling results and impacts to project stakeholders. Other benefits of CHANGE include:

  • More accurate design of bridge openings, span arrangements roadway profiles, scour countermeasures, and bank protection
  • Bridge scour or sediment removal analysis
  • Evaluation of temporary and permanent flooding impacts

PennDOT's project champions for this EDC innovation have already received training and participated in a users' forum on the topic. As part of EDC-5, PennDOT is conducting pilot projects using the Sedimentation and River Hydraulics – Two-Dimensional (SRH-2D) model in Districts 4, 8, 10 and 11. As FHWA continues to develop new resources, PennDOT will evaluate and incorporate them as appropriate. PennDOT state champions will continue to participate in training opportunities, and the districts will implement 2D modeling on one Hydrologic and Hydraulic (H&H) study per year. PennDOT is also coordinating with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III to work through regulatory limitations.

Example of 2D modeling
Innovation Spotlight

Cunningham Culverts Project

The Cunningham Culverts project in District 10 included replacing two U.S. Route 422 structures with a twin cell culvert and relocating Curry Run. The H&H study used a 2D finite difference analysis to model the complex hydraulic conditions at the site and better define areas impacted by the project. The proposed stream realignment eliminated the sharp bends upstream of the bridges, overtopping of Route 422 and significantly improved the hydraulic performance of the crossing.

Other Innovations

Every Day Counts 5 (EDC-5)

Improving Safety on Rural Roadways

Roadway departure crashes are a major problem on rural roads, taking the lives of nearly 30 people per day nationally. The Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (RRRwD) EDC-5 innovation encourages the use of several proven countermeasures to reduce these deaths. The PennDOT project champions are assessing these countermeasures for systematic use on all rural roadways. As part of the assessment, PennDOT is comparing Pennsylvania's procedures for deployment with those of other states.

The RRRwD innovation focuses on flexible, cost-effective countermeasures that fall into three categories:

Minimize the severity of crashes if they happen

  • Longitudinal Barriers and Bridge Rails
  • Barrier Terminals and Crash Cushions
  • Sign Supports, Mailboxes, and Delineator Posts
  • Luminaire Supports
  • Work Zone Devices

Help drivers stay in their lane

  • Pavement Friction
  • Rumble Strips and Rumble Stripes
  • Horizontal Curve Safety
  • Nighttime Visibility

Reduce the potential for crashes if drivers leave their lane by providing a safe way to come to a stop or get back onto the road

PennDOT currently uses many of the RRRwD countermeasures, including rumble strips. PennDOT has studied the areas where rumble strips were installed and saw 10 percent reduction in total crashes. There was a 65 percent reduction in fatalities and an 18 percent reduction in major injuries. Overall, there was a 12 percent total reduction of all fatalities and injuries.

Outside of Pennsylvania, 11 states and one national study concluded that crossover crashes were reduced 18 to 64 percent with the use of center line rumble strips, with most studies showing 40 to 60 percent reductions. On rural freeways, studies of edge line rumble strips show that single vehicle, run-off-road fatal and injury crashes can be reduced by nearly 29 percent (from National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 641, p. 82).

Taking STEPs to Assess State and Local Pedestrian Safety Efforts

Pedestrian fatalities have increased over the last several years, accounting for approximately 16 percent of all roadway fatalities. The Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) EDC-5 innovation promotes cost-effective countermeasures that can be systemically applied to reduce these crashes and save lives at all pedestrian crossing locations – controlled and uncontrolled.

PennDOT is focusing on six of the seven STEP countermeasures promoted by FHWA:

  • Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) are LEDs that use an irregular flash pattern at mid-block or uncontrolled crossing locations. They can significantly increase driver yielding behavior.
  • Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting and enhanced signage and markings, help drivers detect pedestrians–particularly at night.
  • Pedestrian Crossing/Refuge Islands allow pedestrians a safer place to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for pedestrians with limited mobility.
  • Road Diets can reduce vehicle speeds and the number of lanes pedestrians cross, and they can create space to add new pedestrian facilities, such as pedestrian crossing/refuge islands.
  • Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs) at signalized intersections allow pedestrians to walk, usually three to four seconds, before vehicles get a green signal to turn left or right. The LPI increases visibility, reduces conflicts, and improves yielding.
  • Raised Crosswalks can serve as traffic calming measures and reduce vehicle speeds.

During the assessment of this innovation, the project team will compare PennDOT procedures for implementing these countermeasures with those used in other states. PennDOT is also exploring ways to incorporate these countermeasures into the Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and encourage local governments to do the same. There is an opportunity to increase the use of these countermeasures by tying them to the PennDOT Connects initiative, which promotes communication between PennDOT and local stakeholders early in the project planning process.

The use of STEP countermeasures recently played a big role in the Capitol Complex Pedestrian Safety Improvement project in Harrisburg, including: intersection improvements; six raised crosswalks; a road diet that provided space for a bicycle lane; a raised intersection at the busiest intersection; lighting repair and ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Taking Pennsylvania Transportation to New Heights

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is an FHWA EDC-5 innovation that Pennsylvania selected. UAS, sometimes referred to as drones, are multi-use aircraft controlled by a licensed operator on the ground and can impact nearly all aspects of highway transportation by giving a "bird's eye view" of incidents, structures, or construction projects. Some potential applications include:

  • Roadway Inspections & Surveying
  • Roadway Subsidence Assessments
  • Bridge & Structural Inspections
  • High Mast Inspections
  • Volumetric Computations
  • Roadway Incident Management
  • Disaster Assessment & Search and Rescue
  • Project Documentation

PennDOT developed an official UAS Policy that was distributed to all districts in 2019. The policy includes guidance related to equipment, operating requirements, training and certification, and roles and responsibilities at all levels of PennDOT. Training was held in April to familiarize district personnel with the new policy, associated risk assessment and the approval process. A two-day event was held in July to develop a strategy for full implementation of UAS across PennDOT. UAS project champions will continue to assess the performance of the innovation, and adjust policies and processes in preparation for full deployment.

PennDOT districts have flown numerous missions with varying degrees of success. These tasks have included everything from simple photography and videography of construction projects to bridge substructure inspections.

PennDOT District 11 used UAS to collect aerial imagery of the Elizabeth Bridge during construction. This project was also used as a test for the use of UAS for bridge inspection, including under the structure and adjacent to the piers where a limited or no GPS link was available. The district found that substructure inspection was challenging due to GPS signal loss, wind gusts, and collisions with beams, but the inspections can be completed with extra care. District employees also recommend that visual observers or "spotters" should be present during all UAS bridge inspection flights.

STIC Incentive Funding

Advancing Innovation in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania STIC continues to use FHWA's STIC Incentive Program funding to advance innovations. The FHWA's STIC Incentive Program offers up to $100,000 per state each year, with a 20 percent state match, to support or offset costs of implementing and standardizing innovative practices. In 2019, two innovations in Pennsylvania received FHWA's STIC Incentive Program funding. The 2019 awardees were the Stormwater Management Training and Field Guidebook and Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Three projects that received FHWA's STIC Incentive Program funding in 2017 and 2018 are featured in the video to highlight the impact $100,000 can make in advancing innovation in Pennsylvania.

Newly constructed bridge over a creek.

Update Growing Pennsylvania's Bridge Construction Tool Box

Faced with maintaining thousands of bridges, PennDOT and municipal officials have a cost-effective solution: the Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil-Integrated Bridge System (GRS-IBS). GRS-IBS is a low-cost alternative that state and local maintenance work forces can construct using readily available materials and without expensive construction equipment. A GRS-IBS bridge can be completed in weeks instead of months with costs 25 to 60 percent lower than conventional methods.

GRS-IBS has been in use in Pennsylvania since 2013, but under very tight design constraints that guide where and when this innovative method can be used. Using 2017 and 2018 FHWA STIC Incentive Funding, PennDOT partnered with the Pennsylvania State University to assist with updating and enhancing the GRS-IBS specifications. The team continues researching specifications in other states, evaluating data, and making recommendations for the updated design standards. Additional data from PennDOT systems and past projects is also being evaluated against the goals of the project and will be utilized to update the specification. The research will be completed in March 2020, and the new GRS-IBS specifications could be implemented approximately six months later.

Since GRS-IBS has been fully implemented, many municipalities are embracing the method, as are numerous district bridge maintenance units. More than 30 GRS-IBS bridges have been built or are in design across the state. The revised specification is expected to expand the number of sites where GRS-IBS can be implemented, including larger, higher-traffic bridges, helping to further reduce the number of poor condition bridges in Pennsylvania.

Update Pennsylvania Jump "STARTs" Innovative Training Facility

Efforts are well underway to develop the Pennsylvania Safety Transportation and Research Track (PennSTART) as a state-of-the-art facility supporting traffic incident management training and testing for new Intelligent Transportation Systems, tolling, and signal equipment.

"The STIC Incentive Funding provided a mechanism for us to start doing a systems engineering analysis of the facility by developing a concept of operations, use cases and a business plan on how we would actually operate the facility and facility requirements," Mark Kopko, director, PennDOT Office of Transformational Technology.

PennSTART will also support work zone operations training, traffic control testing, safety certification and smart truck parking applications, and will provide controlled environments for testing connected and autonomous vehicles. Next steps with the project include outreach to other comparable facilities for background research, and a market analysis to gauge industry interest in this facility to ensure it can be self-sustaining.

"The PennSTART facility will allow responders from all disciplines to actually practice working a scene of an emergency incident in as close to a real-world, full-scale environment as possible," Sgt. Bob Bemis, Pennsylvania State Police, Retired.

PennSTART training screenshot
civil engineer at consruction field

Update e-Construction and Partnering Build Relationships for Paperless Construction Sites

PennDOT and FHWA, in cooperation with the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), used STIC Incentive Funding in 2018 to conduct a study to determine the level of workforce preparedness for e-Construction and Partnering (eCP) between the public and private sectors.

As part of the study, a statewide survey of APC members, American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania (ACEC/PA) members, PennDOT and PTC construction management staff and others was conducted. Eight-seven percent of respondents had at least heard of e-Construction, and 62 percent had used e-Construction apps. Respondents across all industries indicated that in-person trainings would be the most helpful to implement or continue to implement e-Construction. The majority (79 percent) of respondents had heard of and did use partnering at least once. Noted benefits of partnering were increased communication and transparency and increased efficiency, and respondents indicated that statewide guidance and in-person trainings would be most helpful to implement or continue a Partnering program.

PennDOT and its transportation partners are taking a leading role nationally in advancing eCP, an EDC Round 4 innovation. PennDOT has developed several mobile construction apps that have helped to increase productivity, transform processes with efficient technology, and improve data collection and reporting, with a goal of paperless job sites.

Construction partnering connects public-private stakeholders to improve outcomes and successful completion of quality projects, reducing project schedule delays, change orders and claims by eliminating misunderstandings or miscommunication. Construction partnering officially became a component of all new PennDOT construction projects beginning in late 2018. According to Michael Hoffecker, a civil engineer in PennDOT's Bureau of Project Delivery, a majority of participants in partnering efforts during the 2019 construction season, especially those who had negative experiences with partnering in the past, were pleasantly surprised by the process.

New Stormwater Management Training and Field Guidebook

The Stormwater Management Training and Field Guidebook innovation received FHWA STIC Incentive Funding in 2019. The innovation development team is using this additional funding to fully complete the training modules and materials, including planning and organizing training events. The team plans to prepare the training for rollout to PennDOT staff in early 2020 and to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, conservation districts, local governments, and other partners later in the year.

Stormwater management facilities are incorporated into state and local transportation projects and regularly maintained in order to control stormwater and reduce pollution carried through Pennsylvania's sewer systems during major weather events. The training and field guidebook will equip maintenance crews at PennDOT and local governments with the knowledge to properly maintain and care for these vital features moving forward.

flooded street picture from carlisle storm
unmanned aerial system picture of a construction zone
PennDOT District 11 used UAS to collect aerial imagery of the Elizabeth Bridge during construction.

New Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

FHWA's STIC Incentive Funding is being used in partnership between PennDOT's Bureau of Aviation, which is under the Multimodal Deputate, and the Highway Administration Deputate to develop the UAS, or drone, program and associated policies in Pennsylvania. PennDOT's Bureau of Aviation plans to purchase additional drones and support equipment to supply PennDOT central office and all district offices. They are also investigating fleet management software to track and report flight operations, pilot training and equipment maintenance. In the next year, PennDOT will continue to engage with other Pennsylvania agencies working toward joint standardization of UAS operations and training to foster mutual aid arrangements among agencies.

Promoting Innovation

Beyond the STIC

The Pennsylvania STIC engages with partners to advance innovation in Pennsylvania and nationally. In 2019, the STIC participated in events highlighting innovation in Pennsylvania and was recognized nationally for the hard work our STIC and TAG members do to develop and deploy innovations.

STIC Management Team picture
STIC Award
National News

The STIC Wins Again: 2019 STIC Excellence Award

The Pennsylvania STIC received the 2019 STIC Excellence Award from FHWA's Center for Accelerating Innovation and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Official's (AASHTO) Innovation Initiative.

The award was based on the development and deployment of the STIC Moving Forward strategic plan, which reorganized and rightsized the STIC organization. The submission cited combining the STIC's 10 TAGs to four, the development of a structured, yet flexible, process that supports a wider range of innovations, and the enhancement of various STIC communication platforms, such as the updated STIC website and the online 2018 STIC Year-End Report. Since the launch of the STIC Moving Forward strategic plan, nine innovations have been submitted for consideration and approved for further development.

The Pennsylvania STIC is the only state to receive this award twice. The STIC first received the award in 2017 for its success with the Local Government Safety Seminar and other local government outreach initiatives.

National News

Pennsylvania STIC's Communication Successes Highlighted at National STIC Meeting

Best practices from Pennsylvania's award-winning STIC reached a nationwide audience of state transportation officials in FHWA's April 2019 National STIC Meeting. Broadcasting from the Commonwealth Media Services studio in Harrisburg, members of the STIC Management Team, outlined Pennsylvania STIC accomplishments in their "Innovation Through Collaboration and Communication" presentation. They stressed the STIC's breadth – representing 26 organizations from federal, state, and local governments, industry, planning agencies, and academia – and the importance of active engagement from all parties.

The presentation focused on communication being key to advancing innovations, outlined the Pennsylvania STIC's communication goals – increase knowledge, gain acceptance, and dispel myths about innovations – and stressed that leadership buy-in and support are critical to ensure successful deployment. The communication tactics used by the Pennsylvania STIC include news releases, webinars, articles, conferences and outreach events, educational videos, social media posts and infographics, among others. With a focus on moving innovation forward, the STIC Management Team finalized a comprehensive marketing strategy and communications plan in 2019, which will be used to promote new and underutilized innovations to internal and external transportation stakeholders across Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania STIC's communication successes highlighted at national STIC meeting on April 11th, 2019
National News

Workshop Draws Over 200 to Promote
e-Construction and Partnering

PennDOT and the FHWA co-hosted a national conference in Pittsburgh in April 2019 to showcase best practices associated with e-Construction and Partnering. The workshop brought together more than 200 state and national leaders from 27 state Departments of Transportation (DOTs), design consultants, contractors, and other industry leaders to discuss technology and best practices related to this EDC-4 innovation.

Workshop presentations focused on three tracks: innovation, technology, and collaboration. Presenters included representatives from several state DOTs, product vendors, and consultants. Presentations highlighted case studies and best practices related to specific technological tools and mobile applications; use of technology to improve data collection, project management and processes; and the use of construction partnering throughout the life of a transportation project.

PennDOT News

PennDOT Draws Wide Representation with First-of-its-Kind Regional Innovation Day

More than 500 representatives from PennDOT, FHWA and local governments across Pennsylvania gathered on Nov. 14 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg for PennDOT's inaugural Regional Innovation Day. The event was targeted to design, construction and maintenance personnel in PennDOT Districts 5, 6 and 8, and local government representatives from municipalities in those districts.

Offering the opportunity to hear from then—Secretary Leslie Richards and PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary George McAuley, the day featured 20 breakout sessions on transportation design, construction, maintenance, and safety and traffic operations innovations. An Innovation Fair also offered the opportunity for PennDOT and local government representatives to showcase the innovative ways they are doing their jobs better, faster, cheaper, and safer.

Thank you

Another Successful Year of Innovation

Thanks to everyone whose contributions of time, talent and effort continue to yield transportation innovation successes making Pennsylvania's transportation system safer and more sustainable. The dedication of our STIC and TAG members is greatly appreciated, and we look forward to engaging more of our transportation partners and stakeholders in 2020. For more information on the STIC, visit the STIC website or email the STIC Resource Account.