U.S. Infrastructure vs. the Coronavirus
Can you imagine living in a country where roads are dirt and impassable? Where the lights go out often and stay out regardless of the weather? Where electricity is a luxury only the elite can afford?
For many in the world these factors are a reality of everyday life. Without access to electricity, reliable roads, and clean water, the United States would grind to a halt. It is these often-taken-for-granted amenities that our essential workers provide us with every single day. Without them, our nation would fall to its knees.
In water treatment and power plants, road construction teams, nuclear plants, and far more, these infrastructure personnel have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the United States running. 2020 has been a true test of these workers' skills and grit as they have handled staffing shortages and health issues to the best of their abilities, keeping the lights on and roads passable for Americans across the nation. As part of the critical infrastructure workforce, Directional Traffic has provided traffic control services throughout 2020.
Impact of COVID-19 on U.S. Infrastructure
A large portion of funding for the United States’ infrastructure comes from user-generated revenue streams. For example, tolls help to pave and repair state roads and bridges. Fees for commercial water keep water treatment plants running and electric bills paid by citizens keep the lights on.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken away a large part of this funding. Fewer people are traveling, both for recreational purposes and to commute to work. No one wants to fly at the moment since it’s nearly impossible to stay six feet apart on a commercial airplane.
At the same time, financial demands are increasing on state and federal organizations who must increase cleaning protocols and develop new systems for existing infrastructure in order to keep the public safe from the virus. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the federal Highway Trust Fund posted a 49 percent decline of receipts in May 2020 when compared to May 2019. State Departments of Transportation are projecting, on average, a 30 percent revenue decline over the next 18 months. This means fewer funds to repair American roads and bridges at both the state and federal level.
Despite all this, Pennsylvania’s road repair companies have continued to keep our communities safe and roads passable throughout the pandemic. Directional Traffic has been proud to continue to provide traffic control services for those construction companies who need them.
Exposure Risks for Critical Infrastructure Workers
Life for critical infrastructure workers is a little different than that of your average office worker. Because of this, essential personnel worked in a high risk environment for coronavirus throughout the pandemic.
According to the CDC, utility workers can catch coronavirus via:
Close contact with customers or coworkers.
Touching or handling frequently touched surfaces, equipment, or tools and then touching your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.
Entering a building with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
The CDC guidelines for critical infrastructure workers are a bit different than those for the general public. For example, the CDC states “Critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue to work following exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 provided they remain asymptomatic and have not tested positive.” Following exposure in a non-essential workplace, exposed personnel would be asked to stay home. These guidelines were put in place to ensure continued operation of the United States’ critical infrastructure and to limit transmission. More emphasis is placed on continuing to operate essential services than those guidelines for the general public.
Luckily, at Directional Traffic, the nature of traffic control services has allowed us to work mostly outside and over six feet away from each other. This is not always possible for other critical infrastructure workers who may work indoors in a large plant.
How Directional Traffic Has Kept Employees Safe
Directional Traffic has been very lucky as we have still been able to provide traffic control services to Pennsylvania and surrounding states throughout the pandemic. We’ve been able to keep our employees and members of the public safe by following CDC guidelines and adjusting our business practices.
Throughout 2020, we have focused on:
Identifying and prioritizing job functions essential for continuous operation
Cross-training employees to perform critical job functions so we can continue to provide traffic control services even if key employees are absent
Encouraging employees to self-monitor for COVID symptoms
Using masks when social distancing was unobtainable and risks of heat illness were not present
Increasing cleaning protocols and daily disinfection of equipment and the workplace
Directional Traffic Continues to Provide High Quality Services for Our Communities
While the United States infrastructure has been tested nationwide throughout 2020, the lights stayed on, roadways were safe to drive on, and, on average, essential services continued to meet communities’ needs. Soon the American people will be able to put the coronavirus in the past, but the lessons learned from the pandemic will continue to shape the future of American critical infrastructure for years to come.
No matter what 2021 throws at us, Directional Traffic is committed to providing high quality traffic control services for the communities we serve.