A municipality paves a road. Six months later a utility company has to make essential repairs and to do so must access the infrastructure under the road, digging up the newly paved road. This scenario is all too common, and it is both expensive and frustrating for both parties, as well as for the residents who are inconvenienced.
With 130 municipalities, dozens of utility companies, and numerous authorities all operating in Allegheny County—and a network of aging infrastructure in constant need of repair—avoiding costly duplication and inefficient investment in construction and reconstruction is a daunting task.
In 2015, our member municipalities brought forth this issue to CONNECT’s Executive Committee. Following initial discussions, CONNECT served as the host for two Utilities Summits that brought together representatives of the CONNECT municipalities and the major utility companies to identify ways to reduce duplication of road repair. What emerged was a commitment on behalf of all parties to work collaboratively to determine how to better coordinate infrastructure planning, and a charge for CONNECT to continue to host regular meetings to bring stakeholders together to coordinate planning, and to procure a common data platform that municipalities and utilities can utilize to electronically track their paving plans so they can identify opportunities for collaboration. The image directly to the right was taken at CONNECT's fall CONNECT/Utilities meetup in September 2016. CONNECT has continued to host these face-to-face meetups with municipalities and utilities to foster these important relationships on a biannual basis. Substantial savings on both sides have already been realized and lines of communication have been developed.
PA One Call, Columbia Gas, Peoples Natural Gas, Pennsylvania American Water, Duquesne Light, West View Water Authority, PennDot, Allegheny County, Comcast, Hampton/Shaler Water Authority, PWSA and SPC have all been active partners in this effort.
Discussion panel at the Second Utilities Summit (2015). From left to right: Michael Lamb, Controller of the City of Pittsburgh; Julie Bastianini, Manager at Edgewood Borough; Mark Kempic, President of Columbia Gas; and, Matt Macek, Pittsburgh District Superintendent of Field Operations at Pennsylvania American Water.
Common Data Platform: Coordinate PA
In 2016, CONNECT formed a task force along with the City of Pittsburgh, and representatives of all of the major utility companies to look into options for data platforms. Through this work, Pennsylvania One Call became emerged as the appropriate party to own and maintain this data platform. CONNECT has been working collaboratively with PA One Call as they have been going through the process of developing and purchasing a data platform through a company called JMT Consulting. The platform, Coordinate PA, was soft launched in December of 2017 with beta testing and feedback from CONNECT municipalities on the functions and user-friendliness of the software. It officially became live in April of 2018.
PA One Call rolled out Coordinate PA out to all of CONNECT for the remainder of 2018, with a goal of expanding it statewide in the future. CONNECT has committed to working with PA One Call to ensure that the training and outreach to the municipalities is well-managed. Several rounds of training sessions were completed in the summer of 2018, with the option of training municipal staff at their own site.
CONNECT/Utility Biannual Meetups
While CONNECT continues its outreach and training efforts for Coordinate PA, we continue to host biannual, face-to-face meetings in order to find projects and areas of collaboration through the sharing of current or multi-year plans with one another. These meetings have proved to be tremendously valuable in terms of finding points of contact between these agencies and local governments, and building important relationships that foster opportunity over conflict.
To find out more about future meetups, visit our Events page.
Click on the image above to access the Center for Metropolitan Studies’ policy paper. Infrastructure Coordination: Engaging Regional Players in Collaborative Utility Repair and Road Reconstruction.
Click here to see a list of all CONNECT Congress resolutions surrounding infrastructure coordination.