High-Speed Rail Construction Continues Under COVID-19
It's tricky practicing social distancing while working on a major construction project, but workers are doing it
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More than 3,500 people are working on more than 100 miles of high-speed rail right now, as the project’s spine continues to take shape in California’s Central Valley. While state and other office workers are adapting to a work-from-home order, it’s obviously impossible for construction workers to accomplishing anything without being at the many construction sites.
Fortunately, that figure of 3,500 workers is a little easier to manage than it sounds. That points to workers who will be laboring, in whatever capacity, for the length of the project in the Central Valley. In truth, anywhere from 100 to 700 are actually out at construction sites between Madera and Kern counties at any given time, depending what’s being worked on, explained Annie Parker, a spokesperson for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
Field workers also have the safety advantage of being outside in open areas, so they have room to social distance. But there are other issues, such as the necessity of the “buddy system” so workers can keep an eye on each other and get help if someone is injured.
According to Parker, bottom line is construction is continuing, while noting that it is:
…respecting local and state requirements related to stay-in-place orders. It’s important to note that the most recent Executive Order issued last Thursday by the Governor does have language that indicates work in the transportation sector can continue as it has been identified as one of the 16 critical infrastructure sections by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With that said, construction crews are taking several precautions:
- Our construction crews have posted Centers for Disease Control and safety protocols at all offices and field trailers.
- Superintendents and foremen have also been briefed on safety protocols and procedures.
- Social distancing is also in place in their offices and in the field. Some activities do require a buddy system, so they can’t get around that, but they are trying to remain six feet apart when possible.
- Project staff and construction workers are not being allowed to drive in the same vehicles to project sites.
If a crew member shows symptoms related to COVID, they are being sent home immediately, including the rest of the crew to be self-quarantined for two weeks. To the best of our knowledge, that has not happened. As things change we will act accordingly.
Like everyone else, state officials are still figuring out how to best protect people and prevent the spread of the virus while continuing to move forward on important infrastructure projects. As previously reported, current Central Valley construction contracts total nearly $4 billion and there are 30 active construction sites spanning 119 miles across five counties: Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.