GVF continues to offer its partners informative webinars during COVID-19. This week’s call was with Ken McClain, District Executive, PennDOT District 6-0. Ken provided an update on what PennDOT is doing during the COVID-19 response to over 70 attendees.
Ken first provided an update on PennDOT staff. He applauded PennDOT staff for their ability to adapt quickly to a work from home plan and the amount of work people have been producing during this difficult and confusing time.
PennDOT originally reduced its maintenance staff down to a skeleton workforce. Each of the five counties has one sign crew, one bridge crew, and one general maintenance crew. Their purpose is to solely respond to general emergencies and incidences on the roadways. With safe social distancing practices put in place, over the last few weeks crews have slowly increased to include more workforce.
To continue with site inspections, PennDOT has instituted virtual inspections – several utility companies are now able to take video or photo logs of their construction activities and submit them for approval to PennDOT. Since its implementation, Ken stated this procedure has been very successful. PennDOT has been strongly advocating for construction and design projects to resume due to the limited safety concerns that come with construction projects. Ken stated that on first day of the stay at home order all construction projects, approximately 900 statewide, were put on hold. To date, District 6-0 has advocated and succeeded in the approval of 15 construction projects that have been deemed critical to resume. Ken felt confident that based on Governor Wolf’s plan for reopening Pennsylvania, all construction projects will likely resume on May 8th. However, this heavily depends on Governors Wolf’s plan for geographic openings of the state as our region has a high number of COVID-19 cases.
When discussing funding, Ken said advocacy is happening for a potential $50 billion stimulus package for transportation and infrastructure. As the primary form of funding for transportation and infrastructure is the gas tax, there are major concerns regarding funding due to the stay at home order. On April 17th, Governor Wolf wrote a letter to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation advocating that congress pass COVID-19 backstop funding. There has also been continued bipartisan talks on a 6-year re authorization bill.
During the Q&A portion of the call, when he was asked are there any lessons learned from this situation that PennDOT will be applying when the Montgomery county closures are lifted? Ken responded by again praising how great the staff had handled teleworking on such short notice and how impressed he is with the amount of work being produced. This shows that there is potential for teleworking to continue in the future at PennDOT.