(WHTM) — Poll after poll, survey after survey, year after year, Pennsylvania roads rank among the worst in the nation, but not from a lack of effort on PennDOT’s part. PennDOT has the cash and the desire to fix roads and bridges throughout the Commonwealth.
Soon, orange cones will be in full bloom across Pennsylvanian roads.
In south-central Pa., that means 113 projects worth more than $600 million this year.
“The ultimate goal is to improve the efficiency for the traveling public and to make sure it’s a safe corridor for everybody driving through. At the end of the day, that’s what we want,” said Kevin Keefe, acting executive for PennDOT district eight.
However, PennDOT doesn’t always get what it wants; The Mount Rose interchange in York, which was years behind schedule and millions over budget, was just a few miles away from Wednesday’s press event.
“We have to ensure that that lowest bidder is actually qualified and competent,” said Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York County).
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Phillips-Hill was frequently stuck at the Mt. Rose interchange and she says the company engaged in “change order scheming,” which involves bidding low to get the work and then increasing the scope and cost with years of delays.
A bill proposed by Phillips-Hill would require due diligence before construction contracts are awarded.
“I believe that a simple Google search on business practices of a contractor in other states would be very revealing and important in making a determination as to whether or not they are qualified bidder,” Phillips-Hill added.
“If you have a past history of failures, you probably shouldn’t be doing the work here in the Commonwealth. So I think it’s fair to open up those procurement laws,” said Rep. Seth Grove (R), Appropriations Chairman.
Assuring Pennsylvania has good roads for fair prices is not a partisan concept. Phillips-Hill says her bill, which would weed out bad actors before they get state business, is also bipartisan. But will the new governor sign on?
“I remain optimistic until I have a reason not to be optimistic,” Phillips-Hill said.
Construction season is here, and it’s a good time to remind Pennsylvanians to slow down in work zones. Speeding in work zones carries a heavier fine, so you could save money or even someone else’s life.
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PennDOT released a statement regarding the process of spending tax dollars on the Commonwealth’s roadways:
“The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will bring $4 billion in new federal highway and bridge funds to Pennsylvania during the next several years. There is no question that these funds have already made a significant impact in the ability to accelerate the delivery of critical projects across Pennsylvania. Thanks to the BIL, we anticipate that we will put over $2.8 billion in construction contracts out to bid this year.
We work closely with the contracting community to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget, and when there are issues, there are mechanisms in place through the contracting process to address them. For example, construction contractors must be prequalified to perform work under PennDOT’s regulations for most highway and bridge construction projects. This prequalification process reviews, among other factors, the financial capacity of contractors to bid and deliver projects and reviews the performance of contractors. Negative evaluations may impact a contractor’s prequalification status and ability to perform work in the future.
If legislation is introduced related to contractor accountability, we will certainly review it and work with legislative partners to ensure that we are acting in the best interests of our Commonwealth. We understand the importance of careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and we take that responsibility seriously.”