In a retrospective look at 2015, state Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards touted efforts to improve efficiency and customer service, but said Pennsylvania continued to face funding that fell shy of the amount needed to fully maintain the state's transportation infrastructure.

"We are far short of everything we'd like to do," said Richards, a former Montgomery County commissioner.

The state has 598 construction contracts worth $2.4 billion this year, she said, and made pavement improvements to 6,077 highway miles. By contrast, the agency estimated that it needed $3.5 billion in 2010.

Richards' Thursday morning conference call touched on new research that the department is pursuing. One is an extreme-weather study that will assess flooding damage from recent storms to predict where flooding might strike. The state has recorded $210 million in flood damage since 2005, she said, adding that extreme weather was expected to increase in the future.

Another study will look at bridge construction to determine the kind of concrete and construction methods most likely to keep bridges standing for 100 years without major repairs.

Richards noted that the state made progress in repairing structurally deficient bridges. Pennsylvania leads the nation in deficient bridges with almost 4,000. That's down from more than 6,000 bridges that were reported structurally deficient in 2008.

The secretary also touted new technologies, including a vehicle locator on snowplows that motorists can use to learn what roads have been plowed during snowstorms, and an addition to the agency's website,, that provides detailed information on construction projects.

Efforts to streamline operations at state Department of Motor Vehicles centers have gotten results at the office in Malvern, where waits have been reduced from nearly an hour to virtually none at all, Richards said.

A pilot queueing system allows a central office in Harrisburg to review how lines are being handled at DMVs. The data led to an additional camera station in Malvern so people don't wait as long for photos.

Richards estimated that the state would need $6 billion in 2020 to maintain good repair for transportation infrastructure. A 2013 transportation funding bill, Act 89, should create $2.3 billion in 2019.

The state is awaiting the results of congressional negotiations over a long-term transportation funding bill. After years of stopgap measures, the House last week passed a $325 billion funding bill through 2021, but it provides funding for only three of those years. The transportation bill passed in the Senate in July.

215-854-4587   @jasmlaughlin