A lighter load on Houston-area freeways and COVID-19 concerns have not slowed the heavy machinery making way for more lanes or new ramps along many of the routes seeing unprecedented drops in traffic.
Some crews will even ramp up work as traffic takes a coronavirus-induced holiday.
“Lighter traffic on our roadways potentially presents some opportunities to advance some of our work, and that is being assessed on a case-by-case basis,” said Raquelle Lewis, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation in Houston.
All TxDOT projects remain active, Lewis said.
Houston Public Works and contractors on city jobs also remain out tying steel, pouring concrete and smoothing asphalt, Public Works spokeswoman Erin Jones said this week.Of course, this is only for projects already in progress. Given how Coronavirus is affecting the business environment, it will be more difficult to prepare construction documents and bids, gather materials and manpower, and complete other tasks needed in order to undertake new projects.
(I should know. I tried to have an online meeting with TxDOT staff earlier today about a future planning study. It was a comedy of errors of lagging computers, reverbing microphones, and malfunctioning "virtual" computer displays. We continue to have actual, in-person meetings in this day and age precisely because they do not "malfunction." I don't think technology will ever replace the primacy and legibility of actual, physical interpersonal interaction.)
There’s also the question as to how work crews will be able to stay healthy and practice "social distancing" while still getting construction tasks completed.
All in all, however, it's generally a good thing that projects intended to improve mobility can be accelerated (and hopefully be closer to completion) by the time the city's traffic returns. It's also good that, even as so many businesses are shuttered and workers sidelined during this crisis, the region's construction workers will still be receiving a paycheck.
I also thought this tidbit was interesting:
Automobile traffic may be down, but bike use in Houston appears to be surging. Trips on Houston B-Cycle — each time one of the bicycles was checked out from a kiosk — were 51 percent higher from Feb. 23 to Tuesday, compared with last year, bike share officials said.
“It’s often more than one factor,” B-Cycle spokesman Henry Morris said. “Personally, I think the combination of good weather, spring break, school and work closures, and the need for solo or small group transportation/recreation options because of social distancing rules are all contributing to the rise in trips.”
Gyms also are closed, leading many to venture out in the pleasant weather.This is good news. Between the reduction in automobile traffic as well as the nice spring weather, now’s probably a perfect time for a bike ride. As long as bicyclists sanitize the bikes before or after each use and stay six feet apart from each other, of course…