Turnpike Receives Two Awards from International Transportation Organization
The PA Turnpike has been recognized with not one, but two awards from an international transportation organization.
At the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, or IBTTA, awards ceremony in Seattle Monday, Oct. 9, the Turnpike took home Toll Excellence Awards in the Social Responsibility category for its Sustainability Program and in the Safety category for the Lane Blade roadway debris removal device.
"It's really a fantastic honor for us,” Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey, who spearheaded the Lane Blade project, said. “A lot of people have been involved in this project, and a lot of passion went into it.”
"It was pretty exciting to get the recognition internationally about the program," Director of Facilities Operations Keith Jack added about the award in sustainability.
The Lane Blade
The Turnpike officials were looking for a way to reduce the amount of times Maintenance Utility Workers have to pull over and get out of their GEICO Safety Patrol trucks to drag debris and deer carcasses from the roadway, and the idea started off as a rather far-fetched suggestion.
“I said we needed a spatula on the front of a pickup truck,” Shuey said. He jokingly called this device the “Splat-ula,” but he realized there was a nugget of an idea there. “I challenged our Maintenance folks to go out and find a solution. Maybe one exists, and if not, let’s create one.”
Working with the J-Tech company out of Chester County, the Turnpike created something new – the Lane Blade. Here’s how it works:
Much like a miniature snowplow, the Lane Blade is affixed to the front of an Safety Patrol truck, and from inside the cab, the driver can lower and raise the Lane Blade and adjust the angle of the wings on each side. The worker can drive forward with the Lane Blade set at the right angle to easily push most debris – and even disabled cars -- off of the road, staying in their truck the whole time. The Lane Blade even has a camera with infrared capabilities to give the driver a better view of the debris.
Shuey said he is proud of the team that made the Lane Blade a reality.
The Sustainability Program
As the Turnpike is well on its journey to becoming America’s First Sustainable Superhighway by 2040, those efforts are now internationally recognized with the IBTTA award.
The employee-led Sustainability Committee has been a driving force at the Turnpike with its members evaluating all transportation and business projects to help achieve this socially responsible goal.
Projects have been far reaching, from the microgrid at the Greensburg Maintenance Facility to plans for portions of the roadway itself to charge electric vehicles, but sustainability is also about helping the community, like the recent volunteer days at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
What really impresses Jack is that a sustainable angle to Turnpike projects doesn’t always start with the Sustainability Committee. Not anymore.
“Our coworkers are taking on that role of sustainability themselves and promoting it in their own projects,” Jack said. “That’s a big win when the committee isn’t even involved.”
In other words, sustainability is catching on.
“It’s become part of the fabric of our culture,” Director of Technology and Innovation Kathryn Hartzell, who co-chairs the Sustainability Committee with Jack, said.
And it doesn’t end with the award. Hartzell said they are already expanding for the future to become the Sustainability Team 2.0. They are planning another display of their green initiatives at the PA Auto Show in Harrisburg, are laying the groundwork for the 2024 iteration of Earth Week and are planning the Turnpike’s first ever community yard sale to support local fire companies and community organizations.
Find out more about the Turnpike’s Sustainability Committee and sustainable programs in this video: