There’s an old adage that in every crisis lies an opportunity. And while it’s true that coronavirus is a serious threat to public health that is wreaking havoc across our communities, we should still be looking for ways to make the best out of a terrible situation.
States, for example, should try to leverage this opportunity of reduced traffic to get infrastructure projects done.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Department of Transportation recently announced plans to accelerate critical infrastructure projects valued at $2.1 billion across the state:
A statewide effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus means more and more employees in Florida are working from home and residents are scaling back their nonessential trips outside.
It also means fewer cars on Florida’s roads, and state transportation officials are trying to take advantage of the reduced traffic.
The Governor understands that Florida’s transportation system is the backbone of our economy and FDOT is proud to accelerate projects, which will help expedite goods to market and provide much needed jobs throughout the state, FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault said in a news release.
Safety is our top priority, so we will continue to ensure that employees have the sanitation supplies needed to follow the guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and work with our industry partners to implement these same precautions to keep workers safe and healthy.
After an initial review of all pending construction projects across FDOT’s districts, including the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, the transportation officials identified a slew of projects to accelerate, according to the release.
This makes a lot of sense. Why not go ahead and take on these projects now while traffic is sparse? All of us have found ourselves stuck in horrible construction traffic. It would be far more convenient for drivers, especially those who spend a lot of time on the road like truck drivers and daily commuters, if these projects were taken care of right now.
But most importantly, prioritizing infrastructure projects can provide new construction jobs for those who are struggling during these challenging economic times. Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. economy was strong. The overall unemployment rate reached a 50-year low, wages and jobs continued to rise, and consumer confidence was at an 18-year high.
Fast forward just a few weeks and our economy is now likely in a recession. A mass number of workers have been laid off, furloughed, or received pay cuts. Businesses have been forced to close and suffer catastrophic losses of revenue.
During this time of uncertainty, it is imperative that policymakers identify as many ways as possible to help those who are struggling financially while still protecting and preserving public health. States should make use of this time and follow Florida’s example by expediting as many transportation-related infrastructure projects as possible while requiring certain practices such as hand washing and social distancing to ensure workers’ safety. Completing critical infrastructure projects in a timely manner and helping people get back to work should be a priority of every state.