HomeHampton TimesPennDOT’s Kenneth McClain shares local transportation updates

PennDOT’s Kenneth McClain shares local transportation updates

The district executive of PennDOT Engineering District 6 was the guest speaker at TMA Bucks’ recent quarterly breakfast at Cock N’Bull Restaurant in New Hope

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

McClain. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Dozens of area transportation professionals convened at the New Hope-based Cock N’Bull Restaurant on the morning of Friday, Dec. 14, for TMA Bucks’ quarterly breakfast meeting. Beginning at 8 a.m., while enjoying a hearty spread of bagels, bacon, eggs and more, attendees learned about various local road projects from Kenneth M. McClain, district executive of PennDOT Engineering District 6 and keynote speaker of the event.

Appointed to the role in September 2015, McClain manages a 900-person staff responsible for the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of the state highway system in PennDOT’s engineering district that covers Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

According to McClain, PennDOT encompasses 40,000 miles of highway and 25,000 bridges.

“When you put that into perspective, Pennsylvania owns more roads and bridges than all of the New England states, New York and New Jersey combined, which is both shattering and staggering if you look at it,” he said.

In District 6, which covers 8 percent of the landmass of Pennsylvania, there are 3,562 miles of state highway and 2,762 bridges, with 660 of them located in Bucks County. McClain named several more striking statistics, including that the district has almost half of the state’s traffic signals, half of the intelligent transportation systems (EZPass, message boards) and an average of $520 million in lettings (cost of design projects for contractors to bid on) over the last five years.

McClain then touched on PennDOT’s Transportation Improvement Program, and how money will be distributed during its first four years. Some $655 million will be used for bridge preservation, $358 million for pavement reconstruction, $167 million for resurfacing, $111 million for highway pavement preservation, $99 million for ITS safety and congestion, and $68 million for enhancements such as trails, street scapings and other “quality of life” projects.

A total of $2 billion will be used for construction, which McClain said costs 90 percent more than the design of a project. Smaller portions will be put toward environmental clearance and utility relocation.

“One of the challenges in this district is, it’s an urban district with the exception of the northern tier,” he said, explaining how coordinating with utility companies often slows down the process.

Recently completed projects include the connection of I-95 with the Turnpike, a $450 million initiative that has been in the design stage since 2004.

“It’s been something that’s been missing since 1950, so it creates a critical link, at least from the southern part of 95 going toward Jersey,” McClain said. “So that’s a project that we’re very proud of. It’s impactful to this area.”

Upcoming projects include $94 million in improvements on US-1 South, which will widen a 1.3-mile section from Old Lincoln Highway to just south of the Neshaminy Interchange in Bensalem; and restorations on the Scudder Falls Bridge, which will involve the installation of higher guard rails.

Though McClain admitted a number of plans PennDOT has in its pipeline won’t affect Bucks County for some time, he outlined several slated to be implemented in other areas of District 6.

On the Schuylkill Expressway, which becomes congested during the morning and evening rush, it was determined traffic management will be more beneficial than spending millions to widen the highway. This would include changing speed limits to help reduce crashes during peak hours, and flexible lane use, which would allow cars to drive along the shoulder during certain times.

In addition, McClain hopes to build a stronger partnership with SEPTA. PennDOT’s goal is to install message boards on main roads informing drivers of arriving, nearby trains if they don’t wish to sit in traffic.

“It’s one transportation network in Pennsylvania,” he said. “The more that we can communicate together and work together to solve the transportation issues of southeastern Pennsylvania, the better off we’re all going to be in the long run.”

A final, key project under consideration is the construction of a new state-of-the-art PennDOT Regional Traffic Management Center, which is slated for completion in 2021. Currently located on the fourth floor of its Harrisburg headquarters, the 4,000-square-foot space is 40 percent undersized. The $42 million building would be 34,000-square-feet, feature video screens, three rows of operator stations, a media room, and full kitchen, bunks and shower that would allow employees to live there for up to five days in case of an emergency.

“It is going to transform the traffic operations game in the state of Pennsylvania tremendously when that facility opens,” McClain said.

For more information on TMA Bucks, Seven Neshaminy Interplex, Suite 103, Trevose, visit tmabucks.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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