PennDOT Helping Build New PennSTART Research Facility

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is joining with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern PA, known as RIDC, to help build a new transportation research facility at a former 2.8 million-square-foot manufacturing site.

[Above photo by PennDOT]

The new Pennsylvania Safety, Transportation, and Research Track or PennSTART aims to host autonomous vehicle or AV testing while serving as a training center as well as host facility for research institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University.

Yassmin Gramian. Photo by PennDOT.

“As highway safety and transportation technologies advance, our teams, first responders, students and researchers should also be learning about these tools,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian in a statement. “PennSTART will provide access to innovative technologies for testing and education.”

In addition to allowing AV testing and development, PennSTART plans to address safety, training, and research needs in six key areas: traffic incident management; tolling and intelligent transportation systems technology; work zones; commercial vehicles; and transit vehicles.

“Providing real-world training for Pennsylvania’s 54,000 incident responders is crucial to enhance the safety of our highways for responders and travelers alike — especially as we continue to see more speeding and distracted-driving incidents,” said Robert Taylor, the turnpike commission’s chief technology officer.

Image via PennDOT

“Fact is, the classroom alone cannot effectively prepare police, fire, medical, and towing personnel for the dangers they encounter at an incident scene,” he noted.

“PennSTART will serve as Pennsylvania’s first statewide hub for traffic incident management training so these heroes can experience lifelike incidents in a controlled environment,” Taylor added

Other state departments of transportation are also involved in the development of similar facilities.

For example, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol recently celebrated the official opening of a new Traffic Incident Management Training and Development Track in Raleigh, NC – a closed half-mile course that helps first responders safely train for emergency events that occur on highways statewide every day. That track has been in operation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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