Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
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|Pennsylvania Department of Transportation|
|Formed||July 1, 1970|
|Preceding agencies||Department of Highways
Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Traffic Safety
Mass Transit Division
Department of Revenue (oversaw licensing, registration and inspection of motor vehicles)
|Jurisdiction||State government of Pennsylvania|
|Headquarters||8th Floor, Keystone Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
|Agency executive||Barry Schoch, Secretary of Transportation|
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) oversees transportation issues in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The administrator of PennDOT is the Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation, currently Barry Schoch. Presently, PennDOT supports over 40,500 miles (65,200 km) of state roads and highways, about 25,000 bridges, as well as new roadway construction, the exception being the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, although they currently follow PennDOT policies and procedures. In addition, other modes of transportation are supervised or supported by PennDOT. These include aviation, rail traffic, mass transit, intrastate highway shipping traffic, motor vehicle safety & licensing, and driver licensing. PennDOT also supports the Ports of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Erie. The current budget is approximately $3.8 billion in federal and state funds. The state budget is supported by the motor vehicle fuels tax which is dedicated solely to transportation issues.
In recent years, PennDOT has focused on intermodal transportation. This is a broad attempt to enhance both commerce and public transportation.
PennDOT employs approximately 11,000 people.
PennDOT has extensive traffic cameras set up throughout various parts of major cities in the state, such as Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Allentown (Lehigh Valley), and Luzerne County. The latter's cameras are actually fed through to a television channel for Service Electric cable customers in Wilkes-Barre. These cameras are primarily installed for ITS purposes, not for law enforcement (as opposed to speed cameras).
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was created from the former Department of Highways by Act 120, approved by the legislature on May 6, 1970. The intent of the legislation was to consolidate transportation-related functions formerly performed in the Departments of Commerce, Revenue, Community Affairs, Forests and Waters, Military Affairs and other state agencies.
PennDOT is responsible for constructing and maintaining a system of roads at the sole expense of the state. It controls more than 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of roadway. Townships control approximately 51,376 miles (82,682 km) of roads and streets; boroughs, 9,460 miles (15,220 km) and cities 6,779 miles (10,910 km). In all, there are more than 118,226 miles (190,266 km) of public roads, streets and toll roads in the Commonwealth.
Greatest growth in the state highway system occurred in 1931 when 20,156 miles (32,438 km) of rural roads were taken over by the Commonwealth. At that time, the Department of Highways, at the direction of Governor Gifford Pinchot, embarked upon an extensive program of paving rural roadways, well known as the "get the farmer out of the mud" program.
The Federal Government in 1916 instituted grants to the states for highway construction. These grants continue today and now comprise the key element in determining the size of the state's roadbuilding programs.
State payments to local communities for road maintenance also have continued to expand so that they average approximately $170 million annually.
Driver & Vehicle Services
PennDOT is responsible for motor vehicle titles and registration along with issuing driver licenses. Through a system of decentralized, privatized providers, driver services are available at over 1700 sites statewide. The privatized system of providers sometimes referred to as auto tag agents or even private DMV offices has existed for over 45 years. This revolution of private DMV Offices has been followed by only 5 more states. However, Pennsylvania is the only state to separate motor vehicle offices from driver license offices. Driver license centers to this day are all run and owned by PennDOT, unlike motor vehicle offices which are strictly run and controlled by PennDOT however privately owned. An exception to this is at the PennDOT headquarters on Front St. in Harrisburg, which has a large room for all motor vehicle transactions and drivers' license transactions, with a separate room for photographing and issuing licenses to motorists.
There are over 1700 card agents and full agents, in which approximately 400 online messengers, each of these with incrementally increasing authority as dictated by law and all controlled by PennDOT. Online messengers exist throughout Pennsylvania with the same authorities as DMV offices in other states.
Bridges in Pennsylvania
According to a 2011 study by Transportation for America, 26.5% of Pennsylvania's bridges were structurally deficient and the state led the United States with six metropolitan areas with a high percentage of deficient bridges. These figures would have been higher, but the state had recently undertaken a program to quadruple state funding for bridge repairs.
Administratively PennDOT is divided into engineering districts to localize engineering and maintenance. The following is a table of the districts and their associated headquarters. The statewide headquarters for PennDOT is located in the Keystone Building in Harrisburg.
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PennDOT, like most government bureaucracies, has gotten its share of criticisms over the years. The biggest controversy has been the quality of the roads in the Commonwealth, as Pennsylvania consistently has among the worst roads in the United States. Among the reasons:
- The rather long period of time used for construction, which in most cases has caused delays.
- Accusations that cheap material is used, which explains why roads need in repair again so soon after construction.
- Ignoring needed repairs or putting in temporary fixes such as simply filling in potholes.
However, there are supporting arguments as to the roadway conditions being terrible in Pennsylvania that are not entirely at fault of PennDOT, including:
- The weather the state receives, due to its location in the Northeastern United States, results in more wear and tear on roads than in other parts of the nation.
- The rugged terrain in the Poconos and Western Pennsylvania.
- The fragmentation of Pennsylvania's various transportation departments prior to the 1970s that led to the consolidation of most of them to form PennDOT, the lone exception being the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which remains a separate entity today.
- Pennsylvania contains a large amount of roads servicing a relatively small population, creating a shortage of funds that can be acquired through taxes and designated for PennDOT.
- Most roads in the Scranton/Northeast area have been built on abandoned coal mines which can cause poor conditions of the roads.
Other controversies PennDOT has faced have been nothing out of the ordinary, such as misuse of public funds as spending money for employees.
Unlike other states, PennDOT does not support nor work closely with its corresponding transit agencies (SEPTA, Port Authority of Allegheny County). In addition, there is no dedicated transit funding source usually sponsored by the state DOT.
In 2012, PennDOT accepted an Adopt a Highway sponsorship along much of Interstate 376 in Pittsburgh from a local strip club located in Downtown Pittsburgh, with signs about the sponsorship located throughout the Penn-Lincoln Parkway. According to PennDOT officials, strip clubs are permitted, along with any other business, to sponsor such projects, since it keeps the roads clean and saves taxpayers money. Despite the sponsorship, the program does not send strippers to clean the roads, but rather sends workers from the state paid for by the club to clean the highways.
In 2013, PennDOT erected a new traffic sign along U.S. Route 222 in Ephrata Township notifying travelers of U.S Route 322, with the destination city being the borough of Ephrata. However, "Ephrata" was misspelled as "Epharta", unintentionally sounding like a term related to toilet humor. The story received national headlines. PennDOT said that a new sign to replace the misspelling will cost taxpayers between $800–$1200.
- "The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Nation’s Busiest Bridges" (PDF). Metropolitan Bridge Rankings. Transportation for America. October 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2011.
- 10 States With The Worst Roads And Bridges. Business Insider (2010-08-13). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
- Strip Club Helps Clean Up Local Highways « CBS Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh.cbslocal.com (2012-07-02). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
- Staul, Jenna. (2012-06-01) News Nearby: Strip Club Owner Adopts Portion of Parkway Near Robinson - Business - Cranberry, PA Patch. Cranberry.patch.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.