Nfld. & Labrador

Contractors defend rush hour roadwork

Some drivers are wondering why construction crews in and around St. John's cannot stop working during peak times or do road work overnight instead.

Why do construction crews need to grind, patch and pave the roads during peak traffic times in and around St. John's?

Despite the aggravation and confusion of some drivers, acccording to contractors it's absolutely necessary.

"It's based upon them [contractors] trying to win the business with the best price possible," said Jim Organ, Executive Director of the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recently some drivers have complained about traffic jams while construction crews work on the Outer Ring Road during rush hour.

Organ said contractors win jobs from the various municipalities or the province, based on the cost of completing the work, and it's important they start each day early in the morning.

Organ said if crews were to stop working during peak hours, namely from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. companies would lose up to one third of their active work hours. Many crews, he said, now work 10 to 12 hours a day.

"At the end of the day that's a significant impact on the bottom line," said Organ.

He said jobs would cost between 25 and 30 per cent more if companies were to stop working during peak times.

"Your men are idle, your equipment is idle, you can't move it to another job," said Organ. "It's very expensive to do it that way."

But there are some limits on paving crews on the Outer Ring Road. Both contractors and the province transportation department said crews do not work from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the eastbound lanes, and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the westbound lanes.

Why not work overnight?

Organ said road construction work between midnight and 6 a.m. is not an option.

"I think that sometimes in Toronto and some of the huge centres, you’ve got huge economies of scale at play, and the city of Toronto is lit up day and night any way."

He said it's already difficult getting vehicles to slow down during the day when approaching a construction zone, but getting them to slow down at night would be a bigger challenge.

"I can't even imagine putting work crews on the Outer Ring Road at 12 o'clock at night," said Organ.

"I think working at night, even if there are fewer cars, I think there are still many more safety issues than working in the day time," said.

Organ said construction on the Outer Ring Road is expected to be completed within the next two weeks.