Construction projects continue as normal due to exemption in COVID-19 restirctions
MUNCIE, Ind. — People are told to stay home, many businesses are closed, and government offices are operating with limited staffing levels.
But the construction industry is operating much as it did prior to the country’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two big projects in Muncie serve as examples of ongoing work: Accutech’s new headquarters on Walnut Street in downtown Muncie, and the new Texas Roadhouse on McGalliard Road.
Crews have been in and out of both buildings over the past few weeks, keeping up work to complete the projects. It was unclear immediately if either project have seen delays that would stop them from finishing on time.
Construction companies in Delaware County are using the exemption in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, which was extended until April 20, to keep operations running near normal.
The legislation makes an exemption for critical trades. This includes “building, construction and other trades, including but not limited to, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, operating engineers, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, HVAC, painting and relocation services.”
So, the construction continues.
Even government construction projects have not slowed down because of the virus, despite government buildings from state level all the way down to the City of Muncie being closed for the duration of the pandemic.
The Indiana Department of Transportation will close sections of Interstate 70 for about 30 days this month in order to use the lull in traffic to work on construction projects on the highway.
It might actually be a good time for road construction. Traffic across the area has dropped by 40% from March 9 to March 31, according to data from INDOT.
Delaware County Commissioner James King said that projects were still ongoing at the county level. That includes the new Delaware County Jail.
King said he was concerned about the construction crews’ potential risk due to the virus, but was reassured by the contractor that they were implementing certain protocols to work safely.
Angela Moyer, the project director with the Delaware County Engineering Department, said she did not have any projects on hold. Only a couple contractors have mentioned that events could cause a delay.
Wheeling Avenue’s expansion work was still underway, and county officials said they were about to begin work on the road as well.
Moyer said the Wheeling Avenue Safety Improvement Project should start mid-April.
Bridge work is also continuing. The replacement of bridge No. 127, which takes Delaware County Road 600-W over York Prairie Creek near Lonebeech Drive, would begin soon.
The bridge had been abruptly closed after holes were found in the decking.
Moyer also said that bridge No. 161, which takes Delaware County Road 167 over the White River, is still under design and will hopefully be bid out late fall or early winter. That bridge is commonly known as the Smithfield Bridge.
Mayor Dan Ridenour said that the White River Lofts are waiting to start construction, with hopes to start in April.
The building was supposed to have a groundbreaking ceremony sometime in March, though the mayor said they were working on making sure current restriction would not affect the project.
He said other aspects of the project, including discussions on the restaurant to the northeast of the building, were still ongoing.
Ridenour acknowledged that some elements of projects were slowed by the pandemic due to government offices and certain businesses being closed or limited in their operation. He cited banks and lenders not wanting to commit to new projects as a hurdle.