PennDOT highlights savings, tech, contracts in year-end report

PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards speaks about the agency's use of a mobile construction app to save project managers time and money by reducing dependence on large, heavy paper documents - (Photo / File)

Digital construction management practices helped the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation save more than $1 million on projects across the state this year, officials said this week.

The successful use of PennDOT’s Engineering Construction Management System (ECMS) for highway and bridge construction was one of several items highlighted by the agency in a year-end report on department initiatives.

Added funding for bridge work, improved customer service and a key award for PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards also were highlighted:

• ECMS is a computer system that manages all construction activities for every project in the state. Its use in connection with 130 construction and renovation projects generated more than $1 million in savings, PennDOT officials said, on work that included salt storage buildings, vehicle washes, roofs, and HVAC systems.

• Resources made available under a relatively new funding law allowed the agency to increase spending on construction work, helping tackle the state’s backlog of bridge work and creating private sector jobs.

Act 89 of 2013 cleared the way for significant investments in transportation of all types. Under the law, PennDOT is now able to spend roughly $2.4 billion per year on construction. Without that law, the amount would have been $1.5 billion, the agency said.

That is key, the agency said, to making progress on bridge work. The number of structurally deficient bridges has been cut to 3,662, down from a high of 6,034 in 2008.

The contracts go to private-sector agencies, and the agency estimates about 25,000 jobs are supported for each $1 billion spent.

• New customer service initiatives include efforts to reduce wait times at PennDOT driver license centers, technology allowing the public to track all 2,200 PennDOT plow trucks for the first time, and a new online training and exam portal for recertification of the 80,000 vehicle safety inspection technicians statewide.

• The agency this year embarked on a program called “PennDOT Connects,” designed to reboot its approach to working with counties, municipalities and local stakeholders.

Under Richards, the agency is putting greater focus on collaboration with local communities in the initial stages of project planning, “so all aspects of transportation can be considered very early in the project development process to support a community’s vision and what is best suited to support job creation and safe, reliable transportation,” a PennDOT statement said. 

• Efforts continue to work with local transit agencies and communities to study options for regionalization of transit services.

In south central Pennsylvania, 10 transit agencies have combined shared ride services. In Franklin County alone, the change turned an annual $300,000 to $400,000 deficit into a $100,000 surplus with added service, PennDOT said.

Secretary honored

Richards recently was honored as Female Innovator of the Year and Female Executive of the Year, for a government or non profit agency with 2,500 employees or more, by the Stevie Awards.

The program’s women in business awards, open to female entrepreneurs, executives and employees worldwide, were announced in November.

Richards was recognized for PennDOT’s overall accomplishments this year.

“PennDOT is working to be as efficient as possible with taxpayer dollars, and this year we’ve made tremendous strides, once again, to improve how transportation planning supports local economies and how we can work to improve customer service at all levels through innovation and input from Pennsylvanians,” she said.

“We are meeting Governor Wolf’s mandate to produce a state government that works and an environment that helps sustain jobs that pay.”

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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