Citing concerns over the health and safety of its workers, heavy highway contractor Swank Construction voluntarily idled work on the $215-million I-70 Bridge project in West Virginia this week.
“The decision was made out of an abundance of caution,” says Ron Hags, human resources director at the New Kensington, Pa.-based company. Prior to the shutdown, there were about 100 workers on the project with more than half of those being Swank employees from outside the area, he adds.
“This is an out-of-town project for us, so a lot of our guys are staying in hotels and traveling together,” Hags says. “All of that factored into the decision.”
Swank worked with the West Virginia Division of Highways to arrange the temporary stoppage, which is scheduled to last through next week.
“They did approach us and said they had some cause for concern,” said Mike Witherow, acting district six construction engineer at West Virginia Division of Highways. ”We talked through it. We asked them to put us on notice in writing and as of 3 p.m. on Monday they had vacated the site.”
Hags said the company was ahead of schedule on the project, which made the decision easier. Hags would not speculate on whether the project could be delayed beyond next week. “There is constant evaluation of the situation,” he added.
Swank was awarded the three-year design-bid-build project last summer. The scope includes rehabilitation or replacement of 26 bridges in Ohio County, W. Va.
The contractor’s decision comes the same week that Pennsylvania announced a two-week pause of all of its road projects. Hags says the I-70 project is its only current project outside Pennsylvania.