The COVID-19 pandemic has affected society and will have ripple effects that will be around for years to come. As we tread lightly on returning to normal activities — while keeping safety in mind — the coming months will shed more light on any lasting impacts the pandemic will have on the economy and certain industries.

Transportation projects have kept a steady pace over the course of the pandemic. Many construction workers in the industry were able to remain employed, taking advantage of less traffic on the road and even achieving milestones sooner than planned. If the resources are available, now may be an advantageous time to deliver much-needed infrastructure projects.

The e-commerce evolution is driving the need for better infrastructure. Consumer shopping habits are ever-changing — even more so now, as shoppers look for ways to remain at home and maintain social distancing. As people avoid entering physical retail stores, consumers continue to be conditioned to purchase and receive online orders within hours or a day or two.

This increase in demand leads to additional trucks on the road, often carrying loads that are heavier and larger in dimension than before. The reliability of our transportation infrastructure is more important than ever to get consumers the goods they need and in a time frame they expect. To do this, many bridges need to be repaired, raised — to accommodate taller loads — or completely reconstructed. Many of our roads and highways also require rehabilitation or replacement to handle this increase in e-commerce traffic, and these types of projects will likely be on the rise in the near future.

To meet these immediate needs, the transportation industry must be prepared to deliver improvements more quickly than before. Alternative project delivery methods such as design-build and progressive design-build should be explored and utilized to meet the quick turnaround times while maintaining safety and quality.

Although many projects were able to stay on track without interruption during the first few months of the pandemic, some departments of transportation and municipalities are facing short-term revenue impacts. With the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 expiring at the end of September 2020, the transportation industry will be keeping a close eye on legislative prospects in Washington, D.C.

It is imperative that timely reauthorization of a long-term surface transportation bill is passed. The hope is that whatever action is taken in Washington will address the short-term lack of funding the industry has experienced, stimulate the economy in terms of infrastructure that helps get people back to work, and provide a long-term surface transportation plan that is sustainable.


Economic prosperity and growth rely heavily on transportation infrastructure that is strong and reliable. Combine innovative design with dependable construction techniques for your next infrastructure project.

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Steve Kellerman is a construction director for Burns & McDonnell. He leads construction services on transportation projects nationwide, from highways and bridges to roads and rail systems. Steve has two decades of transportation construction experience, spearheading large-scale infrastructure projects for public- and private-sector clients throughout the Midwest.