PennDOT Hopes Student Challenge Can Find New Money

HARRISBURG PA – High school students in the Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Boyertown, Upper Perkiomen, Spring-Ford, and Perkiomen Valley school districts, and others across Pennsylvania, were again invited Wednesday (Aug. 26, 2020) to participate in the annual PennDOT Innovations Challenge. And, in a way, to help the state find some cash.

The challenge, hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, “encourages students to use problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges.” This year’s event asks students to develop an innovative and implementable solution that helps address Pennsylvania’s transportation revenue shortfall.

The department hopes students can suggest something other than additional gas taxes, tolls, or mileage-based user fees to “ensure adequate transportation funding for the future,” it claimed. “Students working on this project will engage in the very real challenge facing the industry – finding a sustainable solution to transportation funding challenges,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said.

The challenge is open to all students in grades 9-12, regardless of their school’s learning model, PennDOT added. The submission deadline is Dec. 18 (Friday). Learn more at the challenge webpage, here.

The agency 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 New England states combined, it said. Much of the money to maintain them comes from liquid fuels taxes, which are declining, in part due to decreased travel during the coronavirus pandemic and an increase in fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

To meet the needs of its aging infrastructure, PennDOT added, the state “needs to establish a funding stream that will inject an additional $5 billion per year into its transportation system.”

Regional challenge winners will be selected and invited to compete for the state championship. Several prizes with a total value of $5,500 are available.

Archive photo by The Post