To say that the coronavirus has had an unfortunate impact on health and the economy is obviously an understatement.
While we cannot control what has happened, and what continues to happen, we can look for opportunities and lessons learned.
However, we are still in the middle of this situation. Or, perhaps more accurately, we have not yet made it to the middle of it. As Winston Churchill said during another challenging time, “it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
So perhaps it is too soon to look for lessons learned.
But it is not too soon to identify and leverage opportunities. Fortunately, our partners at NCDOT have found several, and we will all be the beneficiaries.
Traffic volumes are down significantly on our freeways and other roadways. This means that there are opportunities to move elements of several construction projects forward, by temporarily closing extra lanes that are not currently needed.
Doing so can allow projects to proceed more quickly, and more safely, since the extra space for construction can greatly simplify maintenance and protection of traffic and workers.
I-40 at Aviation Parkway is one example. The entire Interstate will be closed this weekend — for a few hundred feet. Traffic will simply go up one ramp and back down the other; Aviation Parkway itself will also be closed across I-40. Doing so will enable the removal of the old Aviation Parkway bridge to proceed unimpeded.
I-40 in southeast Raleigh is another. Interchange work near the new flyover can proceed much more simply by closing additional lanes on the mainline 40 freeway for a few days this weekend.
NC 147 near Downtown Durham is a third. An “extended” (by one day) lane closure will greatly simplify some of the construction along the freeway as part of the ongoing I-885 connector project which opens later this year, and provide construction flexibility to ensure completion of that work.
There are almost always one or more silver linings to everything — and when it comes to coronavirus, more efficient and safer construction projects are clearly one of them.
And of course, time is money, and given the current and emerging funding situation for highways, every little bit helps — we are unfortunately not even at the end of the beginning for that conversation. More to come.
Joe Milazzo II, PE
Regional Transportation Alliance