Climate Change, Tech Innovation Pose New Infrastructure Challenges, State Officials Say

Sep 13, 2017

New challenges have arisen around transportation and infrastructure in the last decade, particularly climate change and innovations in technology, according to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and state Transportation secretary Leslie Richards. 

The pair made the remarks at a sustainability event at Carnegie Mellon University Wednesday.

Richards said PennDOT builds roads with the intention that they'll be usable for decades, but anticipating the future popularity of autonomous vehicles raises previously unexplored questions for developers.

"We have to ask, is that road the type of road that an autonomous vehicle and connected vehicle need?" Richards said. "Are we using the right materials that we're going to need 40 years from now when we come back and do a major renovation?"

She said technological advances in transportation affect decisions made by the state, including those that might seem arbitrary at face value, such as using line paint on roads that can be detected by both computers and people.

Dunn said many of Pennsylvania's future developments will account for the impacts of climate change. She said it's innovation out of necessity.

"We see it as a driving opportunity toward green infrastructure if we can get the engineering right, get the data right, and make a convincing case that green infrastructure is affective and it works," Dunn said.

Earlier this month, PennDOT released information on how technology is being integrated into infrastructure at a two-day Automated Vehicle Summit. The authority focused on strides in safety and efficiency.

The DCNR has made steps in recent years to prioritize energy efficiency at state park and forest offices. Under Dunn's leadership, 14 new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings have been constructed.