Less traffic during stay-at-home order might accelerate transportation projects

I-70 and I-435 Interchange Project
Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 00:14:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- — Work on transportation projects around the Kansas City metropolitan area continue, as its deemed essential. But in recent days, the shifts for some crews have changed.

"When we would be doing night work, we might be looking at doing some day work that helps with expediting the project, maybe some savings to our taxpayer dollars," said David Silvester, Kansas City District engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

With the stay-at-home order in effect, there are fewer drivers on metro roadways. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has seen a 40 percent drop in traffic in the metro.

"They may change when they were going to close certain lanes or when certain ramps were going to be open or closed to do different work because they can do a lot more work a lot faster with the lower traffic counts," Kelly Kultala, public affairs manager for KDOT District One, told 41 Action News on Tuesday.

While KDOT tries to get ahead of schedule at some sites, a concrete paving project at Interstates 635 and 70 had to be postponed because the subcontractors are from California.

"If they had come, they would have to [have] been under quarantine for two weeks because they had a stay-at-home order before we did," Kultala said. "So it kind of goes both ways."

In addition to the larger-scale projects, KDOT and MODOT crews are patching potholes, something Kansas City, Missouri, is familiar with.

Maggie Green, public information officer for KCMO Public Works, said the city manager passed an emergency declaration for a "pothole emergency" in February.

"That really allowed us to, for the first few weeks in March, really get a lot of staff time overtime out catching up on potholes," Green said.

As of Friday, KCMO public works crews have filled 85 percent of potholes reported to 311.

To maintain social distance, their crews are working weekly shifts, half in at a time, with one person per vehicle.

Despite less traffic, transportation officials urged drivers to increase their awareness behind the wheel.

"I know there's a lot more distractions going on now than just the pieces of equipment that we would normally think of, a phone," Silvester said, "but there's a lot going on in people's heads right now with how do they keep functions going, how they keep family going?"