New Hampshire, Vermont road crews adapt to new workplace rules

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT
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This week typically marks the official start to the road construction season around the region, but the coronavirus pandemic has altered some crew's schedules and workplace rules.

"This season is important to get a jump start on the summer maintenance season," said Chris Turgeon with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

The Mascoma Street bridge, which spans Interstate-89, is temporarily closed while NHDOT crews make needed repairs. The work is considered essential in the Granite State. "Anything we get behind on just puts us way behind schedule on keeping up with it and making improvements for the future," Turgeon said.

There are also 585 miles of paving projects in the works, though most won't get underway for a few more weeks. "It depends on what part of the district they are in. There may still be some frost up north, but typically starting from the south and working their way north," Turgeon said.

He said crews also need to abide by social distancing guidelines like limiting the number of people in a vehicle to keep workers safe. "CDC recommendations are being handed down to everybody and we are following those," Turgeon said.

Across the river in Vermont, some VTrans trucks are parked when they would normally be out at a job site. Governor Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order imposed restrictions on construction, including work on roads.

"AOT is following closely the restrictions on construction and at this time only projects that are deemed critical to the COVID-19 response, or are an emergency repair due to traveling public safety concerns, are active," said VTrans officials.

But that could be changing. Scott is expected to address the issue at his Friday media briefing. We are told that "outdoor work that allows for social distancing" will be toward the front of the list for reopening consideration. And VTrans officials say the regularly scheduled maintenance and construction projects will commence once the Governor deems it safe and appropriate.