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How Dauphin County Has Turned a Small Surplus Into Major Infrastructure Improvements

This article is excerpted from the February 2018 issue of Pennsylvania County News magazine. It is provided courtesy of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and is reprinted here with their permission. This is in no way an endorsement by CCAP of the products or services offered by HRG.

What would you do with an extra $350,000 per year in your county Liquid Fuels budget?

It sounds like a nice problem to have, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly the challenge Dauphin County faced six years ago as its aggressive bridge management program reached a very important milestone: The last load-posted, structurally deficient bridge in the county’s inventory was fully programmed to be replaced.

This video tells the story of the last structurally deficient bridge in Dauphin County.  Once the county funded the replacement of this bridge, it had a surplus of Liquid Fuels money in its budget. They decided to use this surplus as seed money for an infrastructure bank that has funded more than a dozen roadway, traffic and bridge improvements throughout the county in just a few years. (Learn more about the county’s last structurally deficient bridge in this profile.)

For almost 30 years, the county had patiently and strategically planned the rehabilitation or replacement of 51 bridges. Close to 1/3 of its county-wide inventory had been structurally deficient at the time they embarked on this effort in 1984.

Now that hard work and determination was about to pay off. The county could drastically reduce its spending on bridge capital improvements by shifting from a replacement phase to a maintenance phase.

The county’s engineer, Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG), analyzed what investments would be necessary to proactively maintain the bridges and determined that the county would have an annual surplus of approximately $350,000 in Liquid Fuels funding beyond what was needed for maintenance expenses.

County commissioner Jeff Haste wanted to make sure the money was used wisely: “The county’s bridge management program had delivered tremendous value to our residents, drastically improving the safety and efficiency of our transportation system for drivers. We wanted to use this money to deliver even more value.”

Dauphin County Commissioners celebrate a ribbon cutting

County Commissioners Haste, Pries and Hartwick wanted to maximize the benefit of these surplus dollars for county residents. The infrastructure bank approach has allowed them to fund more than $11 million in improvements with an initial investment of $1 million.

Haste and his fellow commissioners, Mike Pries and George P. Hartwick, III, were thinking big, but regulatory requirements threatened to make the impact of this money small.

“Because of the forced distribution procedure associated with Liquid Fuels funding,” Haste explained, “the county had to come up with a use for this money or disburse it evenly to all 40 of our member municipalities.”

On average, each municipality would’ve received less than $10,000, which is too small a sum to do anything more significant that buy a little extra road salt for the winter.

Yet, even if the county used the entire $350,000 surplus itself, they wouldn’t be able to cover the cost of even one small capital improvement like a single-span bridge replacement (which typically costs between $500,000 to $1 million).

Haste, Pries and Hartwick wanted to have a larger impact, so they asked county staff to collaborate on a solution with the engineer who’d designed the successful bridge management program in the first place.

Together, they came up with an innovative program in which the county would use this annual Liquid Fuels surplus to dramatically reduce the cost of infrastructure improvements for local municipalities.

 

How the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank Works

The Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank offers loans to municipalities (or private sector companies) to design and construct local roadway, bridge and traffic improvements – at unbeatably low interest rates. Municipalities can borrow money for as little as 0.5% interest.  (Private sector borrowers pay a 1% interest rate.)

As an added bonus, Dauphin County provides loan recipients with optional engineering design support. This is very beneficial to smaller municipalities who have never completed a large capital improvement project before and may not know how to navigate the complicated state and federal requirements these projects must meet.  An experienced consultant can save these municipalities from costly and time-consuming mistakes and re-work.

But, if $350,000 wasn’t enough money for the county to complete one major capital improvement project on its own, how can it use that money to fund multiple projects by its municipalities?

The power of partnerships.

Dauphin County multiplies the value of its $350,000 investment by combining it with additional funding from Pennsylvania’s state infrastructure bank.

Essentially, the county uses its Liquid Fuels surplus to make it more affordable for municipalities and private sector organizations to borrow money from the state by paying a portion of their interest. Interest on Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank loans can vary, but it is currently 2.125% at the time this article is being written.

A municipality could borrow funds directly from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank at an interest rate of just over 2%, or it could borrow from Dauphin County, and the county would pay approximately 75% of the interest expenses.

The following diagram shows exactly how the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank funds its projects:

Diagram - How the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank Works

It is a self-renewing process. As municipalities or private sector organizations repay their loan to the county infrastructure bank, the county repays PennDOT.  Once the debt is satisfied, the county has the ability to issue new loans to other municipalities or private sector companies.

For some municipalities, the cost savings provided by an infrastructure bank loan can be the difference between being able to move forward with a project at all or having to postpone it a few more years.

In the first three years of the infrastructure bank program, Dauphin County multiplied close to $1 million in Liquid Fuels funding into $11 million worth of improvements to the local transportation system: 7 bridges, one traffic signal, one streetscape, and one intersection improvement.

Middletown Streetscape

This streetscape project in Middletown Borough is one of the projects that has been funded by the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank.  You can read more about the award-winning project and its potential economic benefit for the community in this article from The Authority.

“This is the kind of dramatic impact we were hoping to have,” says Pries, who oversees Dauphin County’s Community and Economic Development Department.

“The success of our bridge program and the creation of the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank has allowed us to help residents without the need to raise property taxes. Unlike many other parts of the country, our residents don’t have to worry about crumbling bridges and road networks.”

Read more about the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank, the benefits of implementing an infrastructure bank in your county, and other counties that are considering a program of their own in the February 2018 issue of Pennsylvania County News.


Do you want to make your community safer and encourage economic growth by investing in infrastructure? Download our guide:

Infrastructure Funding SolutionsCounty Infrastructure Banks:
Overcoming the Obstacles That Prevent Local Governments From Fixing Their Roads, Bridges, and Water Systems

It explains
• the benefits of a county infrastructure bank program
• how the program works (i.e. where the money comes from, how projects are selected, and how the projects are delivered)

Local governments want to improve their infrastructure but often don’t know where to come up with the money or even how to manage projects of that size and complexity. A county infrastructure bank program solves both of these problems, making infrastructure repair a feasible reality.

Learn how to fix your infrastructure

 


Brian Emberg, P.E.
Brian Emberg, P.E., is senior vice president and chief technical officer of Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG). He helped design Dauphin County’s bridge management system and worked with the county to develop the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank. He has more than 30 years of experience designing roadways and bridges and is particularly skilled in creating unique funding solutions to help local governments accomplish their infrastructure goals with limited revenue.  You can contact Brian by phone at (717) 564-1121 or by email at bemberg@hrg-inc.com

HRG Continues to Expand in WV Office, Hires Justin Peaslee as a Bridge Design Engineer

Justin PeasleeJustin Peaslee, P.E., has joined Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) as a bridge design engineer in its Morgantown, West Virginia, office.

Peaslee has 12 years of experience in the structural design of highway bridges, retaining walls, and civil infrastructure (such as culverts, dams, and water and wastewater treatment plants). He earned both a bachelor’s and master’s of science degree in civil engineering from West Virginia University and is a licensed professional engineer in West Virginia.

Peaslee has published numerous articles in national and international conference proceedings and made a number of presentations at national conferences and local industry events. Peaslee was also featured in the WQED documentary “Invented, Engineered, and Pioneered in Pittsburgh.”

Samer H. Petro, P.E., manager of HRG’s Morgantown office, says, “I have had the opportunity to work closely with Justin over the years, and I know he is a very talented and knowledgeable engineer. He has wide-ranging experience and strong technical skills that make him a valuable asset to HRG and the Morgantown office.”

ABOUT HRG

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is a nationally ranked design firm providing civil engineering, surveying, and environmental services. The firm was founded in Harrisburg in 1962 and has grown to employ more than 200 people in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

Park Boulevard Realignment and Fort Hunter Park Enhancements Honored as Premier Projects by Dauphin County

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is pleased to announce that two of our projects have been selected by Dauphin County in its annual Premier Projects award program.

Since its inception six years ago, the Dauphin County Premier Projects program has honored more than two dozen projects that promote smart growth and spark revitalization throughout the region. Among this year’s honorees, HRG provided engineering services for two of them: enhancements to Fort Hunter Park and realignment of Park Boulevard.

Park Boulevard

A broad range of local leaders from Derry Township, Dauphin County, and area businesses worked together on the realignment of Park Boulevard to support future economic development in Hershey.  The new roadway provides several safety improvements:

  • It replaces a 60-year old bridge over Spring Creek, which was structurally deficient and weight-restricted.
  • It converts a narrow roadway beneath the Norfolk-Southern underpass from two-way traffic to one-way traffic. This reduces the potential for vehicular accidents and allows for the installation of a sidewalk that is segregated from through traffic.
  • It improves emergency response time by adding a roadway connection from northbound Park Boulevard.  (Previously, first responders had to drive a circuitous route through several intersections to access this area. Now crews can reach the area 2-3 minutes faster.)
  • It provides a new shared-use sidewalk that will enhance safety for pedestrians traveling to Hershey’s attractions from downtown.
  • It adds a safe zone for people boarding and exiting buses at the Hershey Intermodal Transportation Center. This zone is physically protected from through-traffic.

Park Boulevard realignment wins Premier Project award

Front Row: Chuck Emerick, Matt Weir, John Foley, Susan Cort, Justin Engle
Back Row: Chris Brown, Patrick O’Rourke, John Payne, Brian Emberg, Tom Mehaffie, III, Matt Lena, Lauren Zumbrun

Fort Hunter Park

Fort Hunter Park seamlessly blends new amenities with environmental protection and a celebration of the area’s history and wildlife. The enhanced park includes two new boat launches that provide access to Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River, new pedestrian paths, new seating to enjoy the scenic views, and new outdoor gathering spaces to accommodate park festivals.  It also includes expanded parking to make it easier for locals to access and enjoy these new park features.

To protect the scenic and tranquil environmental setting, engineers used innovative techniques to collect and treat stormwater like porous pavement. They also replaced two paved median areas with soil, stone and native plantings to retain and filter stormwater runoff while enhancing the appearance of the roadway. A new basin for collecting stormwater is designed to blend with the adjoining woodland edge, and herbaceous plantings and indigenous trees help to improve a local habitat area.

Signage in the enhanced habitat area describes local wildlife for park users, while other signs in the park inform visitors of past river activities such as Native American gatherings, early transportation, and coal reclamation.

Fort Hunter Park wins Premier Project award

Chad Gladfelter, Carl Dickson, John Hershey, Matt Bonanno, Steve Deck

ABOUT HRG

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is a nationally ranked design firm providing civil engineering, surveying, and environmental services. The firm was founded in Harrisburg in 1962 and has grown to employ more than 200 people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.  For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

 

Duke Street Bridge Honored with Safety Award

 

Wider bridge improves access for emergency vehicles and pedestrians while reducing the likelihood of car accidents

 

The Duke Street Bridge replacement has been honored with a Road & Bridge Safety Award from the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, and PennDOT.

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. designed the project for Dauphin County, which improves safety for local residents in several ways:

  • It improves emergency access for residents who live near the bridge. The original Duke Street Bridge couldn’t carry vehicles weighing more than 3 tons, which meant most of the vehicles operated by the Hummelstown Borough Fire Company and Union Deposit Fire Company couldn’t use the bridge. The new bridge has no weight restrictions, and emergency vehicles can safely cross it (as shown in the attached photo).
  • It safely accommodates two lanes of traffic, whereas the original Duke Street Bridge was only wide enough for one lane of traffic at a time.
  • It makes it safer for drivers to turn onto South Hoernerstown Road from North Duke Street, thanks to increased intersection radii. Previously drivers of large vehicles turning right onto South Hoernerstown Road from Duke Street would cross into the opposing lane. Limited sight distance at this location meant that opposing traffic could not see these vehicles crossing over into their lane with optimum time to react. The new wider intersection will drastically reduce the likelihood of accidents at this location in the future.
  • It provides a new sidewalk. The previous Duke Street Bridge had no existing sidewalk; accordingly, pedestrians would often walk in the roadway lanes to cross from one municipality to the other.   The new bridge includes a sidewalk that will enhance safety for pedestrians trying to access the United Water Trailhead and Swatara Creek Trail.

 

ABOUT HRG

Founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

 

Michael Babusci to Lead HRG’s Transportation Practice Area

Michael Babusci

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is pleased to announce that Michael Babusci has joined our team as Transportation Practice Area Leader.  In this role, he will oversee the delivery of all roadway, bridge, and traffic engineering services to clients throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Babusci previously worked as program manager for the Allegheny County Department of Public Works in Western Pennsylvania.  There he was involved in a wide range of projects, including the county’s traffic count program, in-house paving program, and municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) program.  He also oversaw the review and approval of traffic impact studies, corridor studies, and roadway betterment design projects.

Babusci has more than 30 years of transportation engineering and management design experience.  His resume spans a broad range of public, private, and consulting organizations. He also taught graduate level courses in transportation design at Chatham University and the University of Pittsburgh.

“Michael’s diverse expertise will make him a great leader for our transportation group,” HRG’s Chief Technical Officer Brian Emberg says.  “He understands the issues that inform good transportation planning and design from every angle.”

Babusci will also play a key role in expanding HRG’s presence in Western Pennsylvania due to his prior experience working as a member of Allegheny County government and as a consultant for PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the City of Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, and various municipalities and developers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

ABOUT HRG

Founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

Park Boulevard Realignment in Hershey Honored with Safety Award

PSATS-Road-Bridge-Safety-Award-2017_Park-Boulevard_733x548 

Representatives of Derry Township in Dauphin County accept the first-place roadway award in the Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Awards at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors’ (PSATS) 95th Annual Educational Conference April 23-26 in Hershey. Sponsored by PSATS, the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA), and the state Department of Transportation, the award recognizes townships for their extensive contributions to making roads and bridges safer. Participating in the presentation are, from left, PennDOT Director of Planning and Research Laine Heltebridle; Matthew Lena, P.E., transportation team leader, Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc.; Derry Township Chairman John Foley; PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner; and PSATS Executive Board Member Bill Hawk. (Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.)

 

The realignment of Park Boulevard has been honored with a Road & Bridge Safety Award from the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, and PennDOT.  The award was presented to Derry Township officials at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors Conference at the Hershey Lodge on April 24, 2017.

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. designed the project for Derry Township and devised a creative funding strategy that expedited the project schedule.

A broad range of local leaders from Derry Township, Dauphin County, and area businesses worked together on this project to support future economic development in Hershey.  The new roadway provides several safety improvements:

  • It replaces a 60-year old bridge over Spring Creek, which was structurally deficient and weight-restricted.
  • It converts a narrow roadway beneath the Norfolk-Southern underpass from two-way traffic to one-way traffic. (The roadway is not wide enough for two opposing lanes of traffic to safely pass each other, so switching to one-way traffic will prevent vehicle conflicts.)
  • It improves emergency response time by adding a roadway connection from northbound Park Boulevard.  (Previously, first responders had to drive a circuitous route through several intersections to access this area. Now crews can reach the area 2-3 minutes faster.)
  • It provides a new sidewalk that will enhance safety for pedestrians traveling to Hershey’s attractions from downtown.
  • It adds a safe zone for people boarding and exiting buses at the Hershey Intermodal Transportation Center. This zone is physically protected from through-traffic.

The realigned Park Bouelvard was completed and opened to traffic in the fall of 2016.  View a slideshow of project photos below.

 

 

Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank Honored with Governor’s Award

Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc. (HRG) is pleased to announce that our client Dauphin County received a Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence for the infrastructure bank program we helped them create. The award for “innovative community or government initiative” was presented to Dauphin County officials at the Governor’s Residence on April 12, 2017. Commissioners George Hartwick, Jeff Haste, and Mike Pries attended the ceremony with George Connor, the executive director of Dauphin County’s Department of Community and Economic Development and the administrator of the infrastructure bank program.

HRG worked with PennDOT and Dauphin County officials to develop this program, which provides a creative solution to one of local government’s biggest challenges: successfully maintaining and replacing infrastructure. It leverages the county’s Liquid Fuels funding and the underutilized Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank program to stretch the value of local government dollars. In its first three years, Dauphin County turned an annual investment of $325,000 in Liquid Fuels money into 10 projects worth $11 million: 7 bridges, 1 streetscape, 1 intersection improvement, and 1 traffic signal improvement.

DCIB turns 325K into 10 projects worth $11M

While people on both sides of the aisle agree that infrastructure improvements are badly needed, the debate often stalls over where the money will come from to pay for these improvements. The Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank shows that new revenue is not necessarily needed to begin addressing these problems; applying existing revenue in new ways can help us make significant progress. By combining several sources of funding – each of which would’ve been inadequate to meet the infrastructure need alone – the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank has accomplished so much more for the county’s residents than these funding sources could’ve done individually.

Brian Emberg is an engineer who helped develop this program. He began working with the county in the 1980s on a similarly forward-thinking program that helped the county eliminate significant structural deficiency of its bridges. (In 1984, one-third of the county’s bridges were structurally deficient, but today the county has no load-posted, structurally deficient bridges at all, thanks to a bridge management system they designed with HRG.)

Emberg says, “Dauphin County’s officials are dedicated public servants and true visionaries. They continually challenge the status quo to deliver the best service to their constituents for the highest return on public tax dollars. This program provides a great example to other counties on how the seemingly impossible task of addressing our infrastructure can be solved.”

Indeed, HRG is currently in talks with counties around the state about implementing similar infrastructure bank programs of their own. Though Dauphin County uses its program for transportation improvements, the program can be used to fund any type of infrastructure, depending on the sources of money used to capitalize the loan program. For more information about the program, read our white paper on county infrastrastructure banks.

  • Projects funded by the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank

    Middletown Borough Streetscape

  • Projects funded by the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank

    Londonderry Township culvert

 

ABOUT HRG
Originally founded in 1962, HRG has grown to be a nationally ranked Top 500 Design Firm, providing civil engineering, surveying and environmental services to public and private sector clients. The 200-person employee-owned firm currently has office locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. For more information, please visit the website at www.hrg-inc.com.

 

County Infrastructure Banks make local roadway, bridge, and stormwater improvements easier and more affordable.

With a County Infrastructure Bank, local government officials have a renewable funding source that can:

  • Multiply the return on a small investment: completing several projects for less than the cost of one. (Dauphin County has successfully taken an annual allocation of $325,000 – not even enough to fund one single-span bridge replacement – and used it to fund 10 projects in just three years.)
  • Offer unbeatably low interest rates (0.5%) to your local municipalities.
  • Promote economic growth by providing a funding pool for infrastructure needs that often prevent development projects from getting off the ground.
  • Provide both funding and project delivery support to municipalities that otherwise wouldn’t have the resources or staff to complete complex infrastructure improvements.
  • Target money to long-term, strategic planning goals for the region.

Download our white paper

 

Adaptive Traffic Signals Reduce Delay, Increase Safety, and Improve Public Satisfaction

Could adaptive traffic signals improve traffic flow in your municipality? Read on to learn:
• The benefits of adaptive traffic signals.
• How they work (and what technology/equipment is required).
• How much adaptive traffic signals cost.
• Where you can obtain funding for implementing adaptive traffic signals.

As traffic engineers, friends have asked us for years if we could give them a magic button to turn traffic signals green whenever they approach the intersection. We smile and chuckle at the joke, but the truth is: The technology already exists for traffic signals to sense cars approaching the intersection and adjust their phasing in response.  It’s called adaptive traffic signal control, and you may already have encountered it in your travels without knowing it.

advanced traffic signal with mounted camera

Cameras mounted on the mast arm detect oncoming traffic and send this information to a central computer.

 

What are adaptive traffic signals?

In the simplest sense, adaptive traffic signals adjust the timing of their green light cycles to match current traffic conditions on the ground. They are constantly collecting data about approaching vehicles and creating new timing sequences to match them.

It’s this second part that distinguishes them from the responsive signal systems many municipalities have today.  While a responsive system will adjust timings based on current traffic conditions, it can only respond with one of its preset cycle programs – trying to find the closest match it can.  An adaptive system creates a completely new timing sequence that is customized to current conditions.

It’s a very efficient way to move traffic through a busy corridor.

How do they work?

  • Video cameras and sensors collect information about the vehicles approaching an intersection.
  • Software analyzes this information and creates a customized timing sequence in real time.
  • The software communicates this sequence to coordinated signals up and down the corridor, so that they all function in sync with each other.

What are the advantages of adaptive traffic signals?

They move traffic along faster and with fewer stops. Signals are constantly being reprogrammed to maximize the green light length and allow the most cars through.  Multiple intersections are coordinated, so that traffic can move freely throughout the corridor, rather than encountering frequent starts and stops.

(It’s important to note, however, that adaptive signals cannot create more time or capacity. They simply allocate time in a more efficient manner.)

A study by the Federal Highway Administration shows that adaptive traffic signals can improve travel time by 10% on average. Intersections with particularly outdated timing plans can see travel time improve by as much as 50%.

Our client, Monroeville, saw travel time reductions of 20% when it installed adaptive traffic signals along the William Penn Highway (Route 22).

advanced traffic signals on Rt. 22 in Monroeville, PA

Adaptive traffic signals along Route 22 in Monroeville reduced travel time by 20% and the frequency of stops by 87%.

 

Adaptive traffic signals increase safety by reducing stops (and thus the opportunity for rear-end collisions).

Monroeville saw an 87% reduction in stops along the William Penn Highway after it installed adaptive traffic signals. It stands to reason this would prevent accidents, and data in other cities bears this out.

  • In Troy, Michigan, collisions causing serious injury were cut in half after adaptive traffic signals were implemented there.
  • Crashes fell by 38% in West Des Moines, Iowa, after the city installed an adaptive traffic signal system on the Jordan Creek Parkway.

Photo by Daniel Oines. Published here under a Creative Commons license.

advanced traffic signals can cut down on rear end collisions

Reducing the time cars spend stopped in traffic reduces the opportunity for rear-end collisions.

 

They tame the chaos that often occurs in unforeseen circumstances (like traffic accidents or special events). A conventional traffic signal system can only respond with pre-timed cycles – none of which are likely to be the best approach for an emergency situation like a lane closure caused by an accident or a downed tree.  Likewise, a special event may cause significant, unanticipated changes in traffic patterns that a conventional system could not respond to adequately.

An adaptive traffic signal system can rewrite the timing to fit the changing situation on the ground. Immediately. The moment the event occurs. (When necessary, municipal staff can override the timings manually– while viewing camera feeds from a remote location– to help emergency response times.)

They increase customer satisfaction and reduce complaints.

Drivers spend an average of 36 hours per year waiting in traffic – even more if they live and work in the city. This is frustrating, and people often complain to their representatives about the roadways where they wait the longest.  If you can reduce those wait times, you will reduce the complaints, as well, and relieve driver frustrations.

In the Harrisburg area, drivers have commented to us about how much better it is to drive on the Carlisle Pike and Route 22 corridors since adaptive signals were installed. Many have told us how they used to hit every red light, but now they cruise through a sea of green, making it to their destination much faster.

Photo via the State Farm Flicker page. Published here under a Creative Commons license.

adaptive traffic signals reduce the time people spend in traffic

Make your drivers happy: Adaptive traffic signals reduce the amount of time people sit in traffic and saves them money on gas and lost productivity.

 

Adaptive signal systems save drivers money and reduce vehicle emissions.

Reducing delays in this way doesn’t just save drivers time; it also saves them money. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute estimated that Americans waste more than $87 billion per year on gas and lost productivity due to congestion.  That’s more than $700 per driver!  The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates those costs will rise by 50% over the next 15 years.  But adaptive traffic signals can help us bring those costs down by reducing congestion and delay.

This will also reduce vehicle emissions, providing cleaner air for us all to breathe.

adaptive traffic signals can reduce vehicle emissions

Adaptive traffic signals make traffic move more efficiently and reduce the time cars idle in traffic. This reduces vehicle emissions. (Photo by Ruben de Rijcke. Used via Creative Commons license.)

 

Where are adaptive traffic signals currently in use?

Over the past several years, PennDOT has been working with municipalities to implement adaptive traffic signals across the state.

  • In Central Pennsylvania, adaptive traffic signals have been installed at more than 40 intersections in Cumberland County and Dauphin County. The primary locations are along the Carlisle Pike and Route 22. Route 422 in Lebanon County and Route 501 in Lancaster County also have adaptive systems.
  • In Western Pennsylvania, adaptive traffic signals have been implemented along 18 intersections of the William Penn Highway in Monroeville.
  • In the State College area, adaptive traffic signals are being installed in Patton Township along Valley Vista Drive where it intersects with Green Tech Drive, North Atherton Street, Lowe’s Centre Driveway, and Carnegie Drive.   Adaptive signals will also be installed on the Waddle Road Corridor.

In fact, 3 percent of the nation’s traffic signals use adaptive signal control technology, and that number is rising fast. According to the Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management at Florida Atlantic University, the number of intersections with adaptive signal control rose by more than 40% between 2009 and 2014. Likewise, the number of agencies using them increased from just 30 to almost 150.  (The laboratory tracks the number of locations using adaptive traffic signals across the United State on a map.)

What does it cost to implement adaptive traffic signals?

The cost to implement adaptive traffic signal systems averages between $30,000 – $50,000 per intersection, according to data from the Laboratory for Adaptive Traffic Operations & Management at Florida Atlantic University.

Other studies by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and similar experts in the field have placed the numbers in this range, as well, but the cost can vary widely. (We found numbers as low as $20,000 per intersection and as high as $65,000.)

One reason costs vary is because adaptive traffic signal systems have many components, and each one has its own pricing variables:

  • New hardware and software
  • Detection devices (radar, loops, video)
  • Controller upgrades
  • Interconnection and communication changes (if intersections are not already interconnected)
  • Staff training
  • Traffic studies

The cost will depend largely on what brand system you choose because different systems have different software and equipment requirements. (Also, some require more training than others.)

The cost will also depend on the current state of your intersections. Many municipalities already have detection devices installed and have already interconnected signals along busy corridors. Costs to implement adaptive traffic signals at intersections like these would obviously be lower than at an intersection that doesn’t have these components.

Is there funding for adaptive traffic signal systems?

Yes, funding is available to help defray the cost of implementing adaptive traffic signals.

  • Programs like Green Light Go and Automated Red Light Enforcement monies could be used successfully to fund these projects in Pennsylvania. (Our article on applying for Act 89 grants provides more insight on the Green Light Go program.)
  • Full or partial funding could also be obtained through the land development process as traffic mitigation required during completion of a traffic impact study.
  • Federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality funds are another option that has been used in the past.
  • Other programs that could provide funding include:
    • The Commonwealth Financing Authority Multimodal Transportation Fund
    • PennDOT Multimodal Transportation Fund
    • Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank
    • Pennsylvania Municipal Liquid Fuels Funds

In Conclusion

traffic signal
Even though it is a significant investment, adaptive traffic signals may be worth the cost because of the benefits they produce:

  • reducing travel time and stop frequency,
  • reducing the number of rear-end collisions,
  • increasing customer satisfaction,
  • reducing the costs of congestion (like fuel and lost time), and
  • reducing vehicle emissions.

Adaptive systems can also handle unforeseen circumstances like a traffic accident or special event traffic better than conventional systems can.

Municipalities who do implement the technology should budget $60,000 per intersection, but the actual cost will depend on the system the municipality chooses and the current technology deployed on its intersections (i.e. the changes or upgrades the intersections will require).

Funding from grant programs like Green Light Go and Automated Red Light Enforcement can be used to defray these costs.

To discuss how adaptive traffic signals could benefit your municipality, contact Eric Stump or Darren Myer.


Eric Stump, P.E., PTOEEric Stump, is the traffic team leader for HRG’s Eastern Region. His experience includes preparing traffic impact studies for developments and reviewing them for municipalities, preparing signal permit and construction plans, developing coordination programs, preparing Highway Occupancy Permit applications, and more.  He has provided municipal review services for several municipalities implementing adaptive traffic signals and recently designed a system for Derry Township.

 

Darren Myer, P.E., PTOEMyer, is the manager of transportation services for HRG’s Western Region. In this role, he oversees the delivery of all roadway, traffic, and bridge projects HRG completes in Western Pennsylvania.  Myer also serves as the traffic engineer for several municipalities, including Monroeville, which recently implemented an adaptive traffic signal system along the William Penn Highway.


 

GUIDE: How to Obtain Act 89 Funding For Your Municipality

Cover of HRG's Guide to Obtaining Act 89 Transportation FundingIn 2013, Pennsylvania enacted Act 89 to increase funding for roadway, bridge and traffic projects.  This legislation increases transportation funding by uncapping the oil company franchise tax, increasing fees for driver services like vehicle registration and license plates, and increasing fines for traffic violations.

Thanks to this legislation, local governments are already benefitting from an increase in their Liquid Fuels disbursements, but millions of additional dollars are available to municipalities who know how to access them. Act 89 funding is not distributed through one umbrella program. It is actually disbursed through several different initiatives:

  •  The Multi-Modal Fund
  •  The Green Light Go program
  •  Low Volume Road/Dirt & Gravel Road Funding
  •  A bridge bundling initiative

In order to obtain the money for which your community is eligible, you’ll need to understand the different programs and the application requirements of each. In order to meet these requirements, you’ll need to implement a long-term strategic planning approach like asset management and capital improvement planning.

This guide can help you do that. In it, we will tell you:

  • What types of projects are eligible for act 89 funding
  • What information grant agencies are looking for
  • Ways to position your projects for grant success

Download our guide and learn how to obtain act 89 funding for your municipality!

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Duke Street Illustrates an Infrastructure Funding Solution


  • Dauphin County has eliminated all of its load-posted, structurally deficient bridges with an ambitious approach to infrastructure funding.
  • Now the county is using the money it’s saved to fund a new infrastructure program benefiting its municipalities and private sector.
  • The program has already funded 10 projects worth $11 million with just a $1 million investment from the county.
  • Read on to learn more about Dauphin County’s innovative infrastructure funding solution.

Duke Street Bridge Under Construction

We begin this story in its final chapter, celebrating the construction of the Duke Street Bridge in Hummelstown Borough and South Hanover Township.

It’s a story that plays out all over America every day: a local government struggling to address aging, deteriorating infrastructure.

But Dauphin County’s story is different. With HRG’s help, they’ve found a solution to the infrastructure funding problem and are turning the page to a new, brighter future: a future they have the freedom to author themselves.

How did they get here? Asset management and capital improvement planning.

Ambitious Capital Improvement Program Eliminates Structurally Deficient Bridges

In 1984, 1/3 of Dauphin County’s bridges were structurally deficient. It’s the kind of problem many local governments – under tight budget constraints – might find insurmountable.  But Dauphin County knew that solving big problems is not done in one swift motion; it’s accomplished piece-by-piece.

Accordingly, HRG designed a long-term asset management and capital improvement planning program for them. It has several components:

  • Inspecting and assessing the condition of each county-owned bridge every two years.
  • Identifying the appropriate type and timing of maintenance, restoration or replacement measures.
  • Creating (and updating) a Bridge Improvement Plan that prioritizes these measures over a 10-year period. (Projects are ranked not just on the bridge’s structural condition but also its importance to the local transportation network [as determined by the amount of traffic it carries, whether it’s located on EMS or school bus routes, etc.])
  • Using this data to seek funding.
  • Leveraging this funding to complete projects over time, addressing the most urgent needs first and steadily whittling that list of structural deficiencies down to nothing.
Roadway Conditions Over Time Graph


 Our article on Better Roads for Less Money illustrates how proactive maintenance can maximize the usefulness of infrastructure at a lower cost than the typical reactive approach.

By taking a proactive approach like this (vs a reactive approach that addresses bridges only after they’ve failed), Dauphin County extends the life of its bridges, maximizing their usefulness while minimizing their life cycle cost.

They also position themselves well for outside funding. A good capital improvement plan includes plenty of data about how many people rely on a piece of infrastructure and how they would be impacted if it were to fail or be taken out of service.  This information is very persuasive to funding agencies, who want to make sure their investment provides the biggest possible benefit to the community.

But agencies also want to be sure the money they invest will produce results: that the project will successfully transition from concept to construction. A well-designed capital improvement plan does just that. It shows you have identified exactly what is required to get a project built (including the timelines for permits and approvals) and that you know the full scope and cost of what you want to accomplish.  It also shows you have allocated money in advance to get the job done.

This level of detail reassures funding agencies that the money they invest will be used wisely and the project will be completed successfully. (See our article on Positioning Yourself for Grant Funding for more detail.)

In fact, funding agencies are increasingly requiring data like this in their application process, so a capital improvement plan is quickly transforming from a nice-to-have item into a necessary part of your infrastructure approach. (Our article on successfully applying for Pennsylvania Act 89 transportation funding explains this in more detail.)

Many pages have been written about Dauphin County’s success with this strategy over the years. (It has been featured in Pennsylvania County News and Road and Bridges magazine among others.)  In addition, the county has won several awards for projects accomplished using this approach: two Road and Bridge Safety Awards, a National Timber Bridge Award, and a historic preservation award from the PHMC.

But the successful completion of Duke Street in 2017 is not just an ending; it’s the beginning of a whole new story for Dauphin County. With no more load-posted, structurally deficient bridges to address, their program transitions its focus from replacement to maintenance.  This has enabled the county to create a new program for funding infrastructure, using a portion of the Liquid Fuels funds it used to need for bridge replacements.

Savings Are Used to Encourage Economic Growth With a New Infrastructure Funding Program for Municipalities and the Private Sector

The Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank combines this Liquid Fuels funding with additional money from PennDOT’s Pennsylvania Infrastructure Bank to offer loans to county municipalities, businesses, and non-profits at unbeatably low interest rates (as low as 0.5%) for the construction of roads and bridges under their jurisdiction. Over the past three years, the county has turned a $1 million investment into 10 projects worth $11 million.

DCIB has funded 10 projects worth $11 million

Again, Dauphin County has its eye on the long view, using its funds to promote economic development throughout its municipalities.

As their example illustrates, the solution to funding our infrastructure is not a short story; it’s a novel with many chapters and a carefully planned arc. In fact, it’s a story that never ends – with the construction of Duke Street serving as the beginning of a new chapter: the Dauphin County Infrastructure Bank.  This program will, in turn, fund many new stories with new characters: municipalities and private developers rewriting the future of their communities one roadway or bridge at a time.

Are you ready to become the author of your  community’s future?

 

UPDATE: Dauphin County celebrated a ribbon-cutting for the completed bridge in the spring of 2017.  Learn more about the bridge in the video below

 


Do you want to make your community safer and encourage economic growth by investing in infrastructure? Download our guide:

Infrastructure Funding SolutionsCounty Infrastructure Banks:
Overcoming the Obstacles That Prevent Local Governments From Fixing Their Roads, Bridges, and Water Systems

It explains
• the benefits of a county infrastructure bank program
• how the program works (i.e. where the money comes from, how projects are selected, and how the projects are delivered)

Local governments want to improve their infrastructure but often don’t know where to come up with the money or even how to manage projects of that size and complexity. A county infrastructure bank program solves both of these problems, making infrastructure repair a feasible reality.

Learn how to fix your infrastructure


Brian Emberg, P.E.Brian Emberg, P.E., has more than 30 years of experience and has designed hundreds of infrastructure projects. His understanding of project management and keen sense of business practices has lead him to his current position as Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at HRG. He is responsible for the management and oversight of the firm’s technical service groups, sales and marketing, client management, and the maintenance and execution of quality management plans.