Pennsylvania Projects Win Three NPHQ Awards

September 28, 2010

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in northwestern Pennsylvania was recently honored with the National Partnership for Highway Quality's (NPHQ) 2008 Making A Difference – Partnering award for its innovative use of manpower, equipment and materials to stretch limited resources while continuing to provide smooth and safe roadways for the traveling public.

The “Making A Difference” Award is presented to teams that have successfully improved quality or customer service related to highway planning, project delivery, highway maintenance, safety, congestion management, workforce training, environmental stewardship, or highway operations.

The agency was spotlighted for its District Operations Teams (DOT): non-traditional, maintenance-oriented, specialized crews that draw members from a number of counties and perform work across county lines. The DOT crew concept was developed to maximize equipment use, combine and share individual and organizational expertise, prepare comprehensive plans, and organize needed resources.

Crew makeup includes team members from three different northwestern Pennsylvania counties and requires abandoning traditional limits that define the organization of rank-and-file employees such as geographic lines, bidding rights and reporting locations. The local agreement to allow this type of organization was developed jointly by management, rank-and-file employees, supervisory employees, and AFSCME District Council 85 Staff.

Both the district and AFSCME believe that operating in this flexible, efficiency-driven manner is key to job security, preservation of bargaining unit work and maintenance of the Pennsylvania highway system in an environment of increasing needs, higher costs and flat revenues.

Pennsylvania also won a “Making A Difference” Award in recognition of the Cameron Bridge Replacement at PA Route 61 and PA Route 225 in Northumberland County. Project partners include PennDOT District 3, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), designer DMJM Harris, Inc., and general contractor Susquehanna Supply Company, Inc.

The $13-million project included reconstruction of the Cameron Bridge and a connector road to improve safety and traffic conditions. Intersection and signal timing improvements along Route 61 at four intersections in the city of Shamokin are also included in the project. The Cameron Bridge is a vital link between Shamokin and Coal Township and locations to the north, and the improvements are considered key to the future growth and economic development of the region.

Because public involvement would be instrumental to the success of this project, PennDOT established an extensive program to engage citizens in developing design solutions to the challenges at the Cameron Bridge. PennDOT established a 23-member steering committee comprised of local officials, business owners and residents. Over the course of 18 months, the committee worked with PennDOT to develop 13 improvement alternatives and to select the preferred alternative that met project goals. When the alternative was chosen, PennDOT solicited input from the committee on project details that resulted in bridge design that enhances both communities.

PennDOT also held two public open house meetings to obtain input to the alternatives. PennDOT invited residents to sketch and submit ideas on maps for committee consideration. Open houses included displays of transportation and environmental information, opinion surveys and computerized traffic simulations. A special project video, “A Bridge for the Future,” was produced to explain the project to the public. Outreach to local newspapers and other media was also an important part of the public involvement program.

PennDOT also won a 2008 “Making A Difference – Risk Taking” Award for its Mifflin and Juniata County/Route 322 Lewistown “Narrows” Project.

PennDOT partnered with the EADS Group, Walsh Construction and the Maguire Group. The 6.65-mile, $110-million project was the second largest construction project ever awarded by PennDOT and featured the longest mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) wall in the United States (second longest in the world).

Project design was complex: It minimized excavation, addressed flood problems and provided for stability in the talus slope that extends along much of this 6.65-mile portion of the roadway. The project incorporated formal partnering efforts including a Citizens Advisory Committee, public meetings, newsletters, and continuous dialogue with many other agencies and local legislators.

About 22,000 vehicles per day travel through the Route 22/322 Narrows, doubling in the fall during Penn State University home football weekends. With few alternate routes available and official detours amounting to 30 to 60 miles (depending on vehicle weight), it was important to keep the roadway open. Special efforts were made to avoid construction-related delays during peak weekday travel times or for special event traffic, such as that created by fans headed to the football games.

The design of the new road addressed concerns about high numbers of crashes and now incorporates variable message boards, video monitoring, flashing, warning devices, and highway advisory radio. The finished project features the addition of a visitors center, new boat and fishing access to a nearby river, a walking path along the waterway, and restoration of an historic canal and lock-keeper's house. The project began in March 2005 with a ceremonial “rock breaking” and opened to all four lanes of traffic in December 2007.