September 26, 2022
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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently released its annual Focus on Innovations report, which highlights a number innovations developed by agency personnel and implemented across the organization.

[Above image by PennDOT]

“Innovation is absolutely essential to our operations, and we have seen how celebrating our successes acts as a continuous driver of new ideas across the department,” explained Yassmin Gramian, PennDOT’s secretary, in a statement.

Yassmin Gramian, PennDOT’s secretary. Photo by PennDOT.

“One of the best things we can do to continue cultivating innovation at PennDOT that will ultimately benefit our customers is to encourage and recognize the amazing talents of our workforce,” she added. “This publication helps us to do just that.”

PennDOT said ‘innovation” comes from many sources within the agency, including employee-driven innovations councils and committees, an employee suggestion system (called ‘IdeaLink’); a smart practice sharing tool (called ‘WorkSmart’); the State Transportation Innovation Council or STIC; and everyday suggestions and solutions discovered by PennDOT employees at all levels across the state.

Available in an interactive format on the department’s website, Focus on Innovations entries are categorized by Construction, Maintenance, Safety and Traffic Operations, Driver and Vehicle Services, Aviation and Public Transportation.

Some of the latest implemented innovations include:

  • An Adopt-A-Highway supply pick-up box, constructed and strategically placed so Adopt-A-Highway roadside trash removal crews can safely retrieve supplies at curbside locations.
  • Automated Flagger Assist Devices or AFADs, which allows a single person to conduct flagging operations – from a safer location – at one-tenth the cost per day when compared to flagging service contractors.
  • Raising paint truck exhaust stacks to prevent the compressor from overheating, which has nearly eliminated equipment down time due to overheated compressors.

The report also features the more recent progress and successes of the STIC. Since its inception in 2012, the STIC remains committed to supporting and promoting the development and deployment of the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts innovations as well as others that exist at the state, national and international levels that may be well suited for implementation in Pennsylvania.

The STIC advanced several innovations in 2021, including a Certified Concrete Finishers Course, a STIC innovation that requires 60 percent of concrete finishers certified on PennDOT projects, which will help eliminate mistakes with concrete finishing and reduce the amount of rework due to concrete scaling.

Predictive Work Zone Analysis, known as ‘FREEVAL-PA’ – another innovation advanced in 2021 – is an analysis tool based on the Highway Capacity Manual that analyzes the impact of work zones on traffic flow. It guides PennDOT’s decision-making process for implementing lane closures, crossovers, or other traffic control measures and helps minimize congestion and delays during construction or maintenance projects.

editor@aashto.org

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