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PennDOT Announces Regional Innovations Challenge Winner


Pittsburgh, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) today announced that a team of students from the North Allegheny School District in Allegheny County has been selected as the PennDOT District 11 winner for its fourth Innovations Challenge.

Mentored by Janellen Lombardi, team members included Brendan White and Benjamin Quint.

Since last fall, students have been working hard to solve this year’s challenge that

asked students to develop an innovative and implementable solution that helps address Pennsylvania’s transportation revenue shortfall by identifying potential new funding streams, aside from additional gas taxes, tolls or mileage-based user fees, to help ensure adequate transportation funding for the future.

“With vehicles becoming more fuel efficient and electric vehicles becoming more affordable, gasoline-based revenues can no longer generate the funds needed,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “To meet the needs of our aging infrastructure, Pennsylvania needs to establish a funding stream that will inject an additional $5 billion per year into our transportation system.”

The winning regional team’s innovation, titled “Restructuring Registration Fee with Rebates”, involves restructuring the way PennDOT registers cars.  The students’ solution would propose raising revenue while also incorporating a rebate structure for car owners based on the amount spent in gas tax the previous year.  Incorporating sustainability into the solution, it accounts for the anticipated shift from electric to gas vehicles.

Now in its fourth year, the PennDOT Innovations Challenge invites high school students in grades 9-12 to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges. The Innovations Challenge aims to not only help students explore actual transportation challenges that PennDOT is facing, but also open their minds to the very real possibility of working for PennDOT after graduation.

“We’d like to express our gratitude to the schools participating in this year’s Innovations’ Challenge.  It has been a unique and challenging year for us all.  We commend all the students for their efforts in developing their proposed solutions to a very important issue.  Not only have they worked through the disruptions of COVID-19 in their own lives, but they also took on the added challenge of helping PennDOT find solutions to its funding needs.  We want to congratulate Brendan and Benjamin on their winning proposal and thank their mentor Janellen Lombardi for her efforts to support the team,” said PennDOT District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, P.E.

Regional winners will now move on to compete virtually in Harrisburg for the state championship.

The Transportation Policy and Education Foundation, an educational arm of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) are providing a combined total award of $5,500 to be divided among the first, second and third place statewide winning teams.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Joel Morris, Community Relations Coordinator, 412-429-5011