For many road users, roadworks can be a major frustration. Traffic often backs up and delays can be long. And if they’re on your daily commute, you might be sitting in roadworks every day for months on end. You might find yourself getting agitated at workers seemingly doing nothing. But is there more than meets the eye?
There are actually a number of reasons why roadworks can take a long time, going beyond projected end times by days, weeks and even months.
Roads are Complicated
Most of us use roads every day without appreciating the complexity of their planning, construction and maintenance. There’s much more to building and maintaining roads than simply pouring and flattening the surface material.
For instance, to create a new road, workers will have to stabilise and reinforce the base, ensure there is adequate drainage, lay the surface, finish the surface and then paint markings. This doesn’t include additional tasks like installing signs and guardrails.
Oftentimes the maintenance or construction project will also require state or local government approvals and oversight, which adds layers of complex bureaucracy to the project management.
To complete all these tasks properly, it takes time. Estimates for when this work will be complete are often best-case scenarios too. In reality, there’s a lot that can interfere with roadworks being completed.
Weather conditions can cause work to slow or even stall completely. For instance, heavy rain can end the workday prematurely as the base of the road needs to be dry in order to be compacted properly.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the weather is too hot, it can affect how tarmac and other materials behave. Additionally, keeping workers in the sun on a hot day may endanger their health.
Even with the best care and maintenance, machines can break down or cause problems. There are a lot of machines required for roadworks, including excavators, motor graders, road rollers and asphalt pavers. Each machine is made up of a number of moving parts that need to be in good working order to function properly.
Additionally, delays can be caused when crews are waiting for a licensed machine operator to arrive. Not all members of a roadwork crew are trained or legally allowed to use every machine. So if the only team member who knows how to use the motor grader is off sick, the entire project can be stalled until they return or can find a replacement operator.
Roads need to Stay Open
Oftentimes roadworks can’t feasibly close off a road completely. They may only be able to close a lane at a time, for instance. Therefore, all work needs to occur around moving traffic.
Roadworks need to be done at a slower pace to be completed around traffic to ensure everyone’s safety and the job is done properly. While traffic control can help to reduce these delays to the project, it can only do so much.
Health and Safety
Even on a closed worksite, construction can be dangerous work. When it comes to roadworks, you have the added risks of nearby pedestrians and passing traffic. This means that road and construction projects are subject to stringent health and safety regulations. The need for safety for the construction workers, as well as passing pedestrians and traffic, means that work is often slowed down to ensure that all health and safety guidelines are properly followed.
Being part of a roadworks team is a difficult and dangerous job. There is a high risk of injury present at all times, from the equipment being used to the cars passing by. As a result, these jobs have strict regulations about how long a team member can work each day and what the cost and requirements of overtime are.
Because of these regulations, it can be more cost effective to have shorter work days to complete the work over a longer period of time. For instance, if a job were to take thirty hours, it would be cheaper to get it done over five six-hour days than three ten-hour days.
Roadworks can certainly be frustrating but remember that there’s a lot going on. From the technical skill required to uncontrollable factors like the weather, roadworks projects are completed as quickly as possible.