His Local Idea Became PennDOT Award Winner This Week

KING OF PRUSSIA PA – After months of dealing with the coronavirus, few people are surprised any longer by how the illness has thrown a monkey wrench into so many activities … like municipal meetings, family celebrations, cultural events, and highway inspections.

Well, maybe not that last one any more, thanks to Francis Hanney. He’s a traffic services senior manager with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 6, headquartered in King of Prussia. It oversees state traffic-related matters in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia counties.

Hanney is among 15 PennDOT workers presented with 2020 Innovation Awards, the agency said Friday (Nov. 6, 2020). They applaud employee “efforts to improve work practices and create efficiencies.” Hanney was recognized for what PennDOT considered a novel idea: a way to conduct virtual highway inspections as a response to “work performance challenges” caused by COVID-19.

Yes, virtual inspections. Hanney “played a key role” with his team, PennDOT reported, in crafting documentation that allows contractors to verify every day that work they do meets state standards.

Contractors supply photos, a work activities log, material certifications, test results, and other information to prove state highways are being properly restored. Their verification packages then get transmitted to field staff members forced by the pandemic to work from home. The result? Safety is closely monitored, employees stay protected and productive, and projects stay on track.

A need for caution and the ability to leverage technology prompted PennDOT to make the virtual inspections part of its COVID-19 highway occupancy permit and utility pandemic policy. It’s an example, state Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian proclaimed, of the agency’s “strong legacy of creativity to help us meet our daily mission and goals.”

During the past decade, PennDOT said, its staffers have submitted more than 3,000 such innovations. Several hundred have been implemented.

Still photo and video made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation