Road project crews ask for patience as construction carries on through pandemic

 Q Street Bridge construction nears completion
Q Street Bridge construction nears completion (WOWT)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM CDT
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With the nice weather and fewer cars on the road, one would think road construction crews have more opportunities to get projects done, and even start additional projects. But it's just not that simple

Omaha city engineer Todd Pfitzer says road projects across the city are on schedule. And while there are some sites that appear to be bereft of progress there are several factors at play.

"The virus is also causing contractors and some of the other utilities and facilities that we work with to slow down because they are short on staff as well...people are staying home to take care of their kids, they're staying home for health reasons they're quarantined. There are lots of reasons everybody tends to be running a bit low on personnel right now," said Pfitzer. "I wish we could just go build three times as many projects this summer but can't. We don't have three times as many contractors, we don't have three times as much construction budget we don't have any of those things."

On the state level, the virus and weather have slowed down some projects as well.

This roundabout at Highway-31 and 36 opened Monday --- about six months late. Some road construction delays across the metro area caused by a limit on contractors, materials, and personnel.

"We’ve been really pleased with the contracting industry, they've been out and of course they want their people to be at work too and so they've been hitting it hard," said Tim Weander with Nebraska Department of Roads.

Work on the west maple road project is ramped up again. Drivers can expect some slowdowns and lane changes here.

The bigger problem lies with the unknown, that Nebraska has not yet reached its peak.

"We want the work done but we also understand what's going on. There could some delays possibly in the future with the delivery of materials but we haven't experienced that yet," said Weander.

And worker safety is also a major concern.

"We're trying to keep the social distancing...we're recommending the masks if they need to wear them we're going to provide them masks to help them if they need to be closer than the six feet social distancing," said Weander."So far we're safe and we're still out there open for business."

Like everything else, crews are asking for patience for those who are on the roads as they try to keep up with project deadlines.

Todd Pfitzer says road projects earmarked for 2020 in Omaha will be completed this year.

Tim Weander of NDOT says two projects beginning next week will impact drivers, a resurfacing project on Highway-75 from fort Calhoun to the Douglas County line, and a repair project on Interstate -80 at the Platte River bridge. Both will run through the summer.