PennDOT’s first public-private effort hits the road

    Pennsylvania is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services.

    A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Harrisburg.

    Part of that 11 percent will pay for a redesign. Brad Mallory, a PennDOT deputy secretary, notes the typically lime-green trucks now sport red-and-white State Farm logos.

    “They’re very interested in the market in Pennsylvania,” Mallory said.

    The roving patrols aren’t like AAA — you can’t call them for help, but law enforcement can send the service your way if you’re stuck roadside.

    PennDOT says the patrols assisted 17,612 drivers in 2013. The truck fleet won’t be increasing or covering more terrain, despite the new underwriter.

    “Candidly, at the moment, we don’t intend to expand the service,” Mallory said. “It is an expensive service, which is why we sought to obtain this sponsorship.”

    The public-private partnership law was envisioned to leverage private money to help with big public works projects, such as road and bridge construction and maintenance. Later this fall, PennDOT expects to announce a larger public-private partnership to build 560 bridges across the commonwealth.

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