GENESEE COUNTY — As the spring construction season gets underway, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Genesee County Road Commission (GCRC) are working hard to complete major road projects, while adhering to COVID-19 mitigation guidelines.
On May 5, crews and contractors with MDOT began repaving northbound I-475 from Carpenter Road to Clio Road. The work is part of a $44 million investment in substantial repairs to nearly 18 miles of I-475 in Genesee County, including interchange improvements and the rebuilding of three miles of roadway.
In addition, MDOT has started modernization work on three separate intersections of M-54 (Dort Highway), including the M-54/Court Street intersection in Flint. Crews have also begun the process of demolishing and rebuilding bridges along the I-75/M-46 interchange in Saginaw County.
As an essential service, MDOT has been able to continue its routine maintenance operations and inspections of bridges, culverts and new construction zones. In doing so, the agency has implemented several social distancing and sanitary measures to keep workers safe from the coronavirus.
MDOT spokesperson Jocelyn Hall said that all MDOT staff and contracted workers are required to wear masks and to avoid sharing equipment like shovels. Contractors are also providing handwashing stations at every construction site.
“Work zone safety is a huge priority for us and the private sector,” Hall said. “Our staff has access to whatever PPE (personal protective equipment) is appropriate for them. We are also working with crews to promote safe distancing as much as possible.”
Likewise, the Genesee County Road Commission has taken precautions by providing its crews with PPE and practicing six-foot distancing when possible in construction zones. Many staff members have also been working remotely.
Despite these changes, the road commission’s 2020 project timeframe is going mostly according to schedule. Randall Dellaposta, Director of Operations for the GCRC, said that crews will be tackling routine crack seal, chip seal and resurfacing projects on primary roads this spring, while also constructing roundabouts on M-54 at Grand Blanc and Morrish roads and at Grand Blanc and Linden roads.
“From an operational standpoint, there has been a slight slowdown,” Dellaposta said. “But we expect only a couple of weeks of lag with most projects.”
Due to the state’s stay at home order, road crews have been dealing with a much lower traffic volume than normal. Hall said that while the reduction in traffic means safer conditions for road crews, it could also spell a great reduction in future funding for MDOT.
“Our budget is comprised of gas tax revenue, so with fewer vehicles on the road, we’re going to see long term ramifications,” she said. “We can’t make a prediction until we know what the full effect is on our revenue, but we know that we’re going to have some challenges and shortfalls to address.”
Dellaposta said that the GCRC will see future reductions to its funding from the National Traffic Foundation (NTF) and may see road construction budget cuts at the state level as well.
Hall and Dellaposta both said that current road and infrastructure projects are well-funded for 2020. Future road projects, however, may be impacted by coronavirus-related economic fallout.