It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your road construction crew is? These days they could be out on the job site, toiling under the glare of floodlights. Largely for the convenience of motorists, many highway projects are now completed while most of the population is sleeping so more lanes can be kept open during daytime hours. (Check our I-94 Precast Panel Repairs project for a time-lapse video of night construction.)
Working at night can be to the advantage of workers in that there are cooler temperatures, fewer cars whizzing by, more lanes closed, and more room to work. But there are challenges and dangers, too – like the time a driver who appeared to be drunk came to a complete stop in a lane of traffic on an interstate highway to ask an Ayres technician what he was up to. Here are more factors that must be dealt with:
- Night work is more dangerous because drivers are more likely to be under the influence, dozing off, or simply confused as they maneuver through a construction zone at night. Ayres staff members have nearly been hit by drunken drivers, says Kim Ballweg, one of our construction supervisors. Lower speed limits in night construction zones help to mitigate these dangers.
- These shifts are hard on workers, whose natural rhythms are messed up by flipping around their waking hours and sleeping hours.
- Despite the lights, it’s harder to see markings on the ground at night, and shadows cast by lights can be confusing. Workers can be temporarily hidden in those shadows, making it imperative that equipment operators remain aware of everyone’s whereabouts. Workers’ head lamps and trucks’ flashing lights can add to the visual confusion.
- Night workers often are paid more for night shifts, so project costs are higher. And shifts are shorter, so less work gets done than during a longer daytime shift, according to Lisa Fleming, who also supervises Ayres construction staff.
- Especially challenging are projects where there are night shifts and day shifts. Maintaining communication and continuity from one crew to the next requires careful transfer of information.
Well, it’s 6 a.m. now, and it’s quittin’ time. The traffic is getting heavy, and it’s time for our crews to hand some lanes back to the motoring public and catch some shut-eye. Remember to watch out – and slow down – in construction zones. We want all those crews to get home safely.
Want to know more about the challenges of highway construction? Click here for a story from our latest issue of TRENDS magazine on construction projects across the country.