Yesterday I reported from the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s third transportation safety day in State College. Grabbing the headlines was PennDOT deputy secretary Scott Christie's comment that greater coordination with the industry had allowed PennDOT to reduce the miles of roads left in disrepair before the winter season.
It didn't make the print version, but Christie also informed me PennDOT had posted 4,000 additional miles of roads since beginning of the Marcellus boom, moving the total number of posted miles on state-owned roads in Pennsylvania from 7,000 to 11,000 miles.
Asked about the biggest difference in PennDOT's approach to the industry between the Rendell and Corbett administrations, Christie said it was a matter of approach.
"The biggest change, I would say, has nothing to do with roadway construction. It's been holding everybody accountable in terms of getting the permits. Because it's a new industry to Pennsylvania, they don’t’ know our permitting process very well, so we're trying to be more helpful," he said. "Rather than just say you did it wrong, we tell them why and how to do it correctly...It's better cooperation, and it’s working."
Christie said he would like to see the industry improve its communication in coordinating roadwork, so PennDOT can plan its own projects in a more efficient way. He also asked the industry to take more responsibility in surveying roads to ensure the damage their heavy equipment is causing to roads is fixed.
"All of a sudden, we got into the role of doing all the surveys," he said. "What we're asking them is, can they fulfill that role other than us doing it."
I also asked Christie about whether PennDOT had taken into account the much higher levels of truck traffic generated by the Marcellus in putting together its bridge ratings. When I was researching my Broken Bridges series on the county's aging infrastructure, I saw inspections are done on either a yearly basis or once every two years -- perhaps too long to wait for some frail rural bridges enduring heavily laden water trucks making thousands of trips a day in accessing remote gas pads.
Christie replied PennDOT had not factored additional Marcellus traffic its rankings or the way it does inspections to account for such activity and had no plans to.