COVID-19 Closures Ease Roadwork Constraints, Says Connecticut Department of Transportation

Efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 have led to significant work slowdowns across many parts of the economy over the last six weeks, but with half the usual traffic on roads across Connecticut, the state Department of Transportation says that it has taken the opportunity to increase road work efficiency.

“Typically, we have limitations on lane closures and other work activities that would detrimentally impact motorists — particularly during peak travel times,” said Kevin Nursick, spokesperson for the department. “As a result of COVID, and drastically reduced traffic volumes, we are able to expand allowable lane closure times, duration and scopes, with no negative consequences, allowing for more productive construction activities.”  

Nursick said that all highway maintenance and construction projects are taking advantage of the increased hours and space in which they have to work.

“Right now, it allows us to be more efficient and more productive,” Nursick said. “When you have to maintain traffic you basically double the time frame required for a project.”

One project that might finish ahead of schedule is the replacement of the median guardrail and grading for proper drainage on I-395 between Montville and Norwich.

“At the start of reduced traffic volumes, we were able to let the contractor start earlier in the evening in the northbound direction. This created no noticeable difference in traffic queues, but allowed for increased production,” according to Nursick who spoke to the supervisor of the project. “We continued to observe daytime traffic conditions and last week decided to try daytime left lane closures. These produced almost no traffic impacts.”

The contractor for the project is now able to work eight hours in daylight and without the need of state police for safety.

“I’m sure production is improved some, but difficult to measure at this point,” the project supervisor reported to Nursick.

Although the increased work over the last few weeks is a positive, Nursick said that he is not certain that these conditions will last long enough to change the completion time of scheduled transportation projects.

“Right now, we are more efficient, we can get more done, but ultimately it will be how does this pan out in the long run,” Nursick said. “There could be issues and concerns about work crews getting sick or a fabrication facility that is currently providing materials for bridge components might be disrupted and cause a delay in the supply chain. We don’t know if we will ultimately get more done.”