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WA's Sound Transit Halts Most Construction

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated health risks, Washington's Sound Transit Construction announced that it would be suspending most of its construction on transit expansion projects until May 4, with room to extended or reduce that projected date.

The suspension period began on April 6.

Project Halts

According to Business Journal, light rail extension projects currently under construction total roughly $12.1 billion and are reported to make up some of the region’s largest construction efforts.

In a press release announcing the partial suspension, Sound Transit stated that the limited work it plans to continue “will focus on tasks considered critical and/or necessary to ensure that all sites remain safe and secure and/or to avoid mobility, environmental or other impacts.”

Examples of work that the company has deemed critical include:

  • Utility work that is already in progress at various locations will be completed;
  • Work in streets of the Tacoma Stadium District that is highly disruptive to the public;
  • Work on the I-90 floating bridge;
  • Certain sidewalks, ramps and driveways on the Eastside, which are important for the safe passage of pedestrian and vehicular traffic;
  • Demolition of buildings along the Federal Way alignment that would pose a public health or safety concern if left standing;
  • Fire protection systems work in the I-90 Mount Baker Tunnel; and
  • Work at the Link Operations and Maintenance Facility East.

As for the limited projects permitted to continue, Sound Transit adds that it will be increasing oversight through reallocated safety inspections and construction management resources.

Contractors will also be required to monitor security at worksites and to maintain the sites, including environmental protection measures.

Additional safety measures to be taken, but may contain provisions, include:

  • Reducing work crew sizes;
  • Staggering report times to avoid large groups;
  • Adding sanitation facilities including more hand washing and hand sanitizer stations;
  • Using face shields;
  • Screening of employee wellness by first line supervisors upon reporting to the site; and
  • Emphasis of COVID-19 symptom recognition, personal protective measures, personal protective equipment and revised work practices.

Ron Lewis, head of Sound Transit’s design, engineering and construction management department adds that employees have already witnessed a 25% to 30% absenteeism among workers. Lewis also reported in a memo to leadership that some contractors have struggled with social distancing “and many have reported high anxiety among the workforce.”

Should any guidelines be violated during construction efforts, Sound Transit has stated it will immediately shut down work, as it did to a live project at the end of March.

Projects to continue construction effects have been named by Business Journal and include the Interstate 90 floating bridge and Mount Baker tunnel, roads within the Tacoma Stadium District, on particular Eastside sidewalks ramps and driveways, structure demolitions on the Federal Way alignment and at the Operations and Maintenance Facility East.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' coverage on COVID-19, here.


Tagged categories: Contractors; COVID-19; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Mass transit; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Public Transit; Rail; Regulations; Safety

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