State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

PennDOT touts modernization efforts

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 1, 2012 8:35 PM

trucktowplow1123.jpgSure, the state faces a multi-billion dollar gap in transportation funding – but that doesn’t mean smaller-amount savings are negligible, say lawmakers. PennDOT is attempting to save up to $75 million a year by making tweaks to things like bridge inspections and traffic lane line-painting.

State Rep. Rick Geist (R-Blair), the House Transportation Committee chair, points to some ways PennDOT’s been able to standardize and speed up how it does business, like the approval of building projects along a highway.

“I have one that we worked on for five years, we couldn’t get. PennDOT now is doing them in 30 days or less. The average is 15 days,” he said after hearing from the Secretary of Transportation about modernization projects underway. “That’s phenomenal. I mean that – they should get a medal for that.”

Richard Roman, a regional assistant executive with PennDOT, says the process always starts with what is essentially a big brain-storming session.

“Nothing gets thrown out: ‘Well, we can’t do it that way just because.’ That mindset of just, ‘You can’t bring it up ‘cause here’s how we always do it,’ is something that we’re trying to change through the Next Generation initiative,” Roman told lawmakers Monday.

More could be on the horizon to make the department increasingly efficient. Lawmakers are waiting on PennDOT for instructions on how to write legislation to move all transportation-related functions under its purview. Right now, some of those processes – Geist offered certain vehicle inspections as an example – are spread throughout other agencies, like the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission.

“It should be under the scrutiny of one deputy secretary,” said Geist, “and that’s not done today. We have stuff that’s all over state government.”

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