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February 23, 2017

New 'PennDOT Connects' program will engage communities in early project planning

The launch of PennDOT Connects will usher in a new approach that requires the department's collaboration with local stakeholders prior to moving forward with transportation-related development.

"We know that transportation plays a huge role in community identities and economies, and we take our responsibility as stewards of the system very seriously," Richards said. "Through PennDOT Connects, we're putting innovation, local resources, and strong partnerships to work so we can have the most sustainable, inclusive transportation assets possible."

The goal of PennDOT connects is to work with communities early in the project planning phase to ensure a holistic process for improving safety, mobility, access and environmental outcomes at the local level. Collaboration between the state and localities will cover everything from bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, transit access and stormwater management to utility issues, local and regional plans and studies and freight-generating land uses, among other areas.

In an interview with PlanPhilly, Richards clarified that PennDOT Connects will not necessarily facilitate the inclusion of every design feature a municipality and community identifies as desirable, but it will help prevent issues from arising midstream, a challenge that has often surfaced well into the design process. 

Collaboration will now take place for projects without previously defined project phases and those whose preliminary engineering either hasn't yet begun or started after July 1, 2016. In total, the requirements of PennDOT Connects will impact about 280 projects worth $2 billion.