It’s been months since your city’s latest construction project began, and there’s little progress to show for it. The dug-up highway, bright orange traffic cones, and endless stream of equipment and construction workers seem like they’re here to stay. If you’re wondering why road construction takes so long, this brief explanation will help describe some of the barriers that construction workers and project planners face.
The Dreaded Red Tape
Major construction projects need to pass stringent regulations and acquire the approval of several government agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to consider the proposed project’s potential environmental impact, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is required to evaluate safety conditions and other worker-related guidelines.
Due to strict regulations, incorporating overtime into a construction project can be costly. This means that workers tend to work shorter hours over a longer stretch of days—which extends the amount of time a project takes to complete but lessens its overall price tag.
In addition to flawlessly passing state and federal guidelines, the proposed construction needs to receive full federal funding. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) evaluates a project’s planning, cost estimation, and risk identification before awarding the funds.
When it comes to funding, the government rarely pays the full amount upfront. If payments to the contracting company are delayed, roadwork is halted. On certain occasions, project funding will fall through. Until the contractors can resecure funding, construction is put indefinitely on hold.
More Than Just Pavement
Roadwork involves more than pouring a fresh layer of asphalt. Construction workers tend to drainage inlets, curbs, reflectors, stripes, and guard rails in addition to cracks and potholes in the road’s surface. The maintenance or replacement of these additional road fixtures adds several days—if not weeks—to a project’s timeline.
Pavement can’t just be poured and left to dry, either. It needs to be spread evenly between lanes to prevent the formation of unwanted and hazardous bumps. To avoid future issues, all roadwork needs to be done gradually and with the utmost care.
Safety Precautions and Hazardous Conditions
Construction sites need to be equipped with adequate safety precautions, like barriers, traffic cones, and additional signage. Setting up the appropriate safety equipment takes a decent amount of time, especially when the construction site spans several miles. Barriers and cones need to be rearranged throughout the process, depending on the section of the road that’s being worked on.
Hazardous conditions are a massive factor in why road construction takes so long. Large, unwieldy equipment, congested traffic, and inclement weather can all cause delays in construction. There’s a long list of potential hazards for workers in road construction, which means they’re constantly alert and on their toes. Frequent physical and mental exhaustion paired with shorter workdays contribute to significant slowdowns and delays in the project’s timeline.