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Les traffic, easier construction

We’ll be talking about the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic for years to come.

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.

This is actually a great time to hit the streets and get some major work done while there are fewer folks driving, officials said. Work is accelerating or changing on a handful of projects, Lewis said. Typically during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, crews halt work on TxDOT projects in the vicinity of NRG Park. When the rodeo pulled up stakes, the highway workers returned.

The chance to disrupt fewer drivers also is changing some schedules, Lewis said.

“Work on the (Loop) 610-Interstate 69 interchange project has moved up the placement of beams for some of the new connectors,” she said.

Contractors working with TxDOT also are seeing if they can extend lane closures to expedite work while traffic volumes are low. Lewis said those are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

“As events evolve, this also could change,” she said.

This all might not last too long – Lord knows, we are all hoping that the bulk of the social-distancing requirements will have a short lifespan – but road construction will be a little easier, and a whole lot less disruptive, in the meantime. I know I’ve barely been in my car over the past two weeks – my group at work was told to start telecommuting ahead of most others, and this past week was spring break. What has been your experience – are you driving less and enjoying the respite, or driving as much and enjoying the lesser traffic?

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I had to drive to Louisiana recently for a funeral (and yes, everyone was observing the social distancing/hand washing thing). Easiest trip I have ever made, zero traffic jams. There were even fewer speed traps. Zero in Texas, maybe 3 or 4 in Louisiana, fewer than normal. There were the usual road work areas, and people were actually working, which is rare in Louisiana, usually they have lots of orange barricades set up, with nary a worker in sight.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I hardly drive at all, although I love driving, I have been riding a bicycle everywhere for quite a while (and doing a lot of walking). The bike trails are crowded with bikes and walkers and joggers, making them slower. With the kids home from school, and getting out to walk, bike, go to the park is one of the few possible activities, that’s where everyone is going. Not to mention the warm spring weather. Meantime, biking on the streets with less traffic is nice, but, a lot of the cars think that with no traffic they can go 50 in a 30, so, in a way, it’s a little less safe.

    Meanwhile, this pandemic is going to help public safety in many other ways. School shootings will drop. Drunk driving is going to drop with bars closed. Pollution is clearing up. Maybe more people will plant gardens this spring.