By Dave Bauer
ARTBA President and CEO

For generations, transportation development professionals have remained on the job during times of national emergency, including wars, 9/11, tornadoes, hurricanes and superstorms. Our industry is typically right behind the first responders, ready to lend a helping hand.

It should be no surprise to anyone that as the nation grapples with the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, the transportation construction industry is continuing to fulfill its mission. While several states have seen COVID-related disruptions, most governors have deemed highway, bridge, and other forms of transportation infrastructure improvements essential.

Even though state DOTs are routinely telling our industry and the public they are open for business, that should not be equated with business as usual. The health threat to our industry’s workers and public sector project owners in the current environment is real and demands a response.

To that end, the efforts of ARTBA’s three dozen state contractor affiliates deserve special recognition. Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, the staff leadership of these organizations have engaged in an ongoing, often daily, dialogue with their counterparts in state agencies about how to balance the responsibility of protecting the safety and health of the individuals on the project front lines with the need to advance needed infrastructure improvements.

The product of these discussions has been a diverse set of best practices and protocols that reflect the individual needs of each state and the dynamics of its workforce.

Whether a state like Florida is taking the opportunity to accelerate projects, or navigating a delicate resumption of construction activities in Pennsylvania, or somewhere in between, 

ARTBA’s regularly updated report on the status of state developments is replete with examples of state associations serving as a conduit between their members and project owners. See it in the Members Only section of our website.

The basis for any productive dialogue is trust and a desire to find common ground. These traits, however, are not formed overnight and rarely in crisis situations. The outcomes our state partners have been able to achieve in recent weeks are the result of years of relationship-building with their members and state DOT leadership teams.

At a time of unprecedented public skepticism about all manners of institution, the collaboration involved in keeping transportation construction projects moving forward in the midst of a global pandemic is the latest example of the public-private partnership that has been the foundation and history of the nation’s transportation infrastructure network.

We are nowhere near the end of the COVID-19 crisis and once that situation stabilizes, we will still be confronted with underinvestment and other challenges at all levels of government, but the last few weeks have demonstrated, once again, the strength and resiliency of the transportation construction industry.

On behalf of the entire ARTBA team, we hope you, your family and your employees remain safe and healthy during this difficult time.

(This column appears in the March/April issue of ARTBA’s Transportation Builder magazine.)