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Here’s what PennDOT officials covered during their 12-Year Program forum

Three Pennsylvania transportation officials sit and speak at a table.
Pennsylvania transportation officials on Wednesday answered questions from residents about the agency's 12-Year Program during an online public forum. From left: Ronald Drnevich, Karen Michael, both state transportation commissioners, and Larry Shifflet, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning.

Pennsylvania residents could soon see a sharp increase in electric vehicle charging stations along state roads.

“There's a major effort on the part of PennDOT to install charging stations along with all the travel corridors,” state Transportation Commissioner Ronald Drnevich said during an online public forum Wednesday. “Everybody worries how many miles they can go before they need to find a charging station, and that's being implemented.”

They’re slated to be added over the next two years, he said.

The topic was among a handful covered by state transportations officials during an online public forum Wednesday, held to answer questions from residents on the department’s 12-Year Program, a planning and funding tool for state-owned road and bridge projects.

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In addition to Drnevich, panelists included Larry Shifflet, PennDOT’s deputy secretary for planning, and Karen Michael, also a state transportation commissioner.

“Tonight marks an important milestone in our outreach process for updating the 12-Year Program,” Drnevich said. “The current 12-Year Program update process will be completed next year.”

The hour-and-a-half-long meeting included 30 minutes of presentations before an hour allotted for public questions — all of which was used.

One resident asked how the program meets emission-reduction requirements.

“You have to go through a process to make sure that what we are doing, or what we're proposing to do, would not increase the detriment of the air in that county, per se,” Michael said, citing federal guidelines.

Another participant asked whether the agency would commit to reducing road noise for residents when existing highways are expanded.

“Unfortunately, the money involved in something like a noise wall is very, very heavy — there's a lot of money involved in trying to build those,” Michael said. “So, at the present time, PennDOT’s noise abatement policy is currently limited to when there is either new alignment or an expansion of lanes."

“Unfortunately we just don't have the money for those retrofits at this point in time,” she added.

There are not “an extensive amount” of widening projects in the current plan, Shifflet said, citing funding and current needs.

A presentation from officials

Before officials began accepting questions, they spoke about the state’s most recent transportation performance report, or TPR, which lets PennDOT monitor, measure and evaluate performance trends.

The report focuses on six key performance measures: safety, mobility, preservation, accountability, funding and freight.

“It is important to note that the 2023 transportation performance report is the first to feature freight as a key performance measure,” Michael said.

“This new measure was added to account for the significant efforts PennDOT has made in innovation and resources dedicated to implementing the goals set in Pennsylvania's 2045 freight movement plan.”

In 2020 and 2021, the commonwealth experienced an overall rise in roadway fatalities, Shifflet said.

“PennDOT continues to use a very data-driven approach to identify the things that infrastructure that influenced transportation to include a downward trend in these numbers in response to the increase in pedestrian and vulnerable road-user fatalities,” he said.

Officials also have worked to improve bridges statewide.

“In Pennsylvania, 6,400 bridges are owned and maintained by counties or municipalities,” Shifflet said. “These locally owned bridges have improved in recent years as well. As you can find in our TPR, with the number of bridges rated poor now under 1,800 compared to over 2,000 a decade ago."

“Doesn't sound like a monumental lift. But quite honestly, it's quite a lift in a decade,” he added.

You can view a recording of the forum online, and the agency is collecting comments on the update through April 30 through an online survey. The department has so far received about 90% of its 10,000-responses goal.