Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said last Monday that state bridge and roadway work – such as the North Washington Street Bridge project or the Mystic/Tobin rehabilitation work – will continue on through the COVID-19 response while using protective measures on the job sites.
“On the one hand, we have to address health and safety first, but on the other hand it is construction season and we have a limited construction season here,” she said. “In any case we can continue safely with construction, we hope to do so.”
Critical infrastructure and repair work has been deemed essential since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, as has most construction, but some have opted to shut down for worker safety anyhow. Pollack said completing projects can be done as long as it is done with care.
She said they have new job site protocols and are requiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with a zero tolerance policy towards those that don’t follow their explicit direction.
Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said they have been taking precautions with their own staff that investigates sites for compliance, and also a set of precautions for the contractor community.
All sites must practice social distancing first and foremost, he said. When that’s not possible, they turn to protective equipment.
“When social distancing isn’t possible as part of construction, such as working inside a mechanical room or placing a beam when two people have to be in close quarters with one another, in these situations contractors are expected to implement protections by supplying masks and eyewear and other PPE that is necessary to do that operation in a safe way,” he said. “We’ve been really clear with contractors and our staff that to be prepared with PPE is as essential as having a hard hat on the job.”
Gulliver said they are prepared to shut down job sites that don’t comply, but so far they haven’t had to.
“There have been no occurrences where we’ve had to do a full shutdown, but we’ve had to ask contractors to modify their work in several important ways,” he said.
•In news from the Registry, it was reported that the federal government has given the state an extension to comply with the Real ID requirement.
Everyone with a license was supposed to have a new Real ID by October. Now, that has been continued to next year.