Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) has prepared legislation to allow all construction projects in the state to move forward as long as mitigation efforts are undertaken to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites, while issuing some selective waivers on an ad hoc basis,” Turzai wrote. “There is no consistency. While governors in New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York have issued shelter in place orders, they have all included exemptions for construction personnel and construction activities. For example, construction of the SoFi Stadium, the future home of the Los Angeles Rams, is continuing in California with appropriate protective measures.
“Highway and other infrastructure jobs that are vital to the transportation and safety of our motorists and citizens across the Commonwealth are currently sitting idle. These jobs still need to be completed in a timely manner. Stopping these projects which are of an open-air nature makes no sense.
“Additionally, the impact to PennDOT’s capital program will be costly in the form of “delay claims” that PennDOT will be contractually obligated to pay idled construction companies. These claims could reach hundreds of millions of dollars. Construction executives working with PennDOT and turnpike officials can manage work while keeping virus disease control at the utmost forefront of the plan.
“Halting home building sites and commercial construction sites has resulted in homes and other structures sitting half-finished and, as a result, poses risks to public health and safety that must be immediately addressed leaving partially built homes and other construction sites exposed to the elements will compromise the integrity of building materials and add additional financial loss.
“In addition, these stop work orders are devastating the households of thousands of Pennsylvania families when they could be earning a paycheck. As of this week, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported that nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation benefits in the past two weeks. This equates to (more than) 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s workforce and the number is expected to continue to rise.”