The Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) announced this week that high school students are invited to participate in the fourth annual PennDOT Innovations Challenge, which encourages students to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.
"One of the goals of the Innovations Challenge is to open students' minds to the possibility of a career in transportation, maybe even with PennDOT," PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a statement. "Students working on this project will engage in the very real challenge facing the industry—finding a sustainable solution to transportation funding challenges."
This year's Innovations Challenge asks students to develop an innovative and implementable solution that helps address Pennsylvania's transportation revenue shortfall by identifying potential new funding streams, aside from additional gas taxes, tolls, or mileage-based user fees, to help ensure adequate transportation funding for the future.
PennDOT is directly responsible for nearly 40,000 miles of highway and roughly 25,000 bridges, roughly equal to the state-maintained road systems of New York, New Jersey, and all the New England states combined. Much of the funding to maintain that system comes from liquid fuels taxes, which are becoming increasingly unsustainable, especially considering additional impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, PennDOT says.
With vehicles becoming more fuel efficient and electric vehicles becoming more affordable, gasoline-based revenues can no longer generate the funds needed, according to PennDOT. Other options, including tolling and mileage-based user fees, are being explored. To meet the needs of its aging infrastructure, Pennsylvania needs to establish a funding stream that will inject an additional $5 billion per year into its transportation system.
Regional Innovations Challenge winners will be selected and invited to compete for the state championship. The Transportation Policy and Education Foundation, an educational arm of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), the American Council of Engineering Companies of PA (ACEC/PA) and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) are providing a combined total award of $5,500 to be divided among the first, second, and third place statewide winning teams.
SOURCE: Pennsylvania DOT