PennDOT regulates activities within their road right-of-way through the issuance of Highway Occupancy Permits. By regulation, a permit is required whenever a access point or utility are installed or whenever other modifications are made to or above the the PennDOT right-of-way.
Most commonly for Benchmark, these permits involve the construction of a new driveway or other improvements associated with a new development or a municipal improvement project. Many existing driveways and utilities were constructed prior to 1982 when PennDOT began their current permitting requirements. These facilities are generally not “grandfathered” however some municipalities do not require that permits be obtained as part of land development projects for these older facilities unless they are being modified.
Often permits are also obtained when utilities are installed. Most major utility companies (water, gas, electric,sewer) have a contact with PennDOT which assists them in obtaining permits because they are generally routine in nature. Stormwater pipes which cross the PennDOT right-of-way are permitted to the local municipality who is then responsible for the maintenance of those pipes, inlets, and associated structures. Frequently, when a permit is issued for a stormwater pipe related to a development the local municipality will assign the responsibility and cost for maintaining the stormwater pipes to the developer. The Highway Occupancy Permit is still issued to the municipality but the developer enters into an agreement with the municipality.
Benchmark has extensive experience with designing facilities and obtaining permits from PennDOT for new and existing driveways as well as utilities. We have also completed projects involving overhead conveyor facilities crossing PennDOT right-of-ways. Please contact us to discuss your permitting needs. We have successfully prepared Highway Occupancy Permits for numerous private clients, municipalities, and school districts.
PennDOT’s ePermitting system has in many ways improved the process of obtaining highway occupancy permits. The Secretary of Transportation often touts how much faster and more efficient it is with permits being issued in 30 days. Obviously, many permits still require several rounds of submissions and the system requires that more information be provided in electronic format.
The system also introduces some challenges as to who can create and submit permits for different aspects of the project (developer for a driveway, municipality for the stormwater pipe crossing, utility company for a pole relocation).
Once the permit is issued, there is generally a one year period for the work to be completed unless a time extension is requested. PennDOT recently pointed out that the new ePermitting system cannot handle the extension of a permit once it has expired for greater than thirty days. Once the permit has expired, a new permit, including application fees, must be submitted. This is the way PennDOT’s regulations have always been. Now the ePermitting system forces PennDOT to enforce the rule.
A word to the wise – once you get a PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit make note of when it expires. Make sure if you have not completed and closed out the permit work you get your renewal approved within 30 days.
Benchmark is proud to announce that PennDOT has issued the necessary Highway Occupancy Permits for the Old Saucon Mixed Use Development in Upper Saucon Township. The project consists of a mix of residential and commercial uses and is located on Route 378 at the intersection with Center Valley Parkway.
Project owner, John Blair, indicated that construction will begin with a first phase of single family residential units which will gain access from Saucon Valley Road. The second phase will consist of the commercial portion of the project which will build a driveway opposite Center Valley Road at its intersection with Route 378. The project includes an internal roundabout, walking paths, and a mix of commercial buildings.
Benchmark performed the traffic studies and roadway design for the project. The project was complicated by the slow economic conditions and changing PennDOT requirements for the improvements. PennDOT issued the permits with conditions relating to the phasing of the development and the phasing of the construction of improvements.
PennDOT released their latest edition of Publication 46 – Traffic Engineering Manual in early March. The document, which is dated January 2013, includes new requirements for the performance of traffic impact studies and the associated roadway improvements design. The new manual was discussed at the Penn State Transportation Conference in early December 2012 at which time it was predicted to be released by the end of 2012.
The revisions to the manual include which software packages can be utilized for performing traffic operations analysis and traffic signal system coordination. It also includes changes to the default parameters utilized with the Highway Capacity Manual calculations. The new manual continues to promote the determination of local parameters for the analysis and the performance of multi-period analysis.
As of January 2013 PennDOT now also requires the use of the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual Methodologies in all new traffic studies. While the default factors now included in Pub. 46 are based on a small sample size Benchmark supports their use and the analysis of operational conditions with multi-periods especially when the traffic demand exceeds roadway capacity.
The link to the new Pub. 46 Traffic Engineering Manual is below. Paste this link into your browser to view a pdf file of the new manual.
PennDOT District 5 has added the submission of three additional items to their list of requirements. They are requesting that Microsoft Excel files be provided for the following:
Segment/offset sign tabulation
Form CS-4401 (for each ramp) and
RMS Pavement Data Form
The segment/offset sign tabulation has been required on the plans and as a printed copy since the start of the implementation of the ePermitting system. This tabulation identifies all of the signs, their legends, and their locations within the limits of work. Benchmark has prepared this information in an Excel spreadsheet since the start of ePermitting so this does not create much of an additional burden for applications.
Form CS-4401 relates to the details of the construction of handicap ramps within the project. This form is useful for the construction inspector to check that the ramps have been properly constructed. Prior to receiving this new request in January 2013, Benchmark prepared this form only as part of a request for technical infeasibility for the ramp to meet all the ADA requirements. This occurs frequently when the existing grades adjacent to ADA ramps do not fall within the ADA slope requirements. Frequently most, but not all of the slope requirements can be satisfied. Providing this information for every handicap ramp on a project will increase the amount of work required to make a complete submission.
The RMS Pavement Data form creates historical documentation of the pavement constructed at a site. Currently Benchmark requests the pavement history from the PennDOT Archive Office and displays it in a detail on the plans. Completing the new form requires the pavement information to be added to this form along with any new proposed pavement. This can create a significant burden depending on the number of different pavement sections within the limits of the proposed project. Providing this information along with the plans for a highway occupancy permit does not guarentee that the pavement will be constructed since some projects are permitted but never constructed and sometime the final construction differs from what is indicated on the plans to address field conditions.
These three additional requirements may not seem like a lot to ask but it increases the time and effort required to prepare and get highway occupancy permits approved.