Construction is still underway on most projects across the Mountain States region.Here's a state-by-state update.
In Colorado, where the number of reported coronavirus cases has been doubling every four or five days, Gov. Jared Polis (D) ordered a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order on March 25. He has since extended the order until April 30.
The state has designated construction as an essential service, allowing most commercial construction to continue, although the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) on April 1 further restricted the definition of “essential” to mean construction activities that are “truly critical,” although the agency provided few details about what that means and how it might be enforced.
The CDPHE offered more guidance for firms with ongoing projects, including keeping the size of work crews to a minimum, enforcing the 6-ft distance between workers, keeping people's interactions on jobsites to a minimum, and insisting on even more robust testing procedures to ensure that workers are not sick.
The agency also asked contractors to delay work on smaller projects until after the governor’s shelter-in-place order expires, unless it is extended again.
To date, there are no reports of publicly funded projects being suspended, according to AGC of Colorado CEO Michael Gifford.
However, Gifford says that work has been suspended on some privately owned projects in hard-hit resort areas such as Summit and Eagle counties, and Pitkin County officials have ordered that all work be stopped, including projects in the city of Aspen. As of March 31, more than 400 of the state’s reported 3,000 COVID-19 cases were located in eight mountain counties, all of them resort areas.
In the northern part of the state, Larimer County is allowing only horizontal public works projects to continue. Several counties have suspended or delayed building inspections and permits altogether or have restricted them to virtual and off-hours visits, Gifford says.
Some future projects have been delayed or will be delayed, Gifford says. For example, the planned 317-room expansion of the Gaylord Rockies Resort near the Denver airport, scheduled to start soon, has been postponed.
“But contractors here are relieved that there’s been no widespread shutdown like in Boston,” Gifford says.
“We are grateful that Governor Polis exempted construction from his latest executive order,” said Colorado Contractors Association executive director Tony Milo via email. “Construction, by nature, is a practice of social distancing. Most projects have workers dispersed on tasks located more than six feet apart.”
In Utah, where a mandatory shelter-in-place order has not yet been issued, “no major jobs have been shuttered,” and all state, airport and transportation work is moving ahead, says Rich Thorn, CEO of AGC of Utah.
“We are about as clear as you can get in these times, so our contractors can stay in business,” Thorn says.
He says he isn’t aware of any private projects across the state where work has been suspended, and there have been no reports of jobsite workers testing positive for the virus.
Although the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Brad Little (R) exempts construction workers in Idaho, “contractors here are certainly feeling the impact of the outbreak,” says Wayne Hammon, CEO of Idaho AGC. All work in Blaine County, Idaho’s hardest hit area, has been suspended, he says. That region was also near the epicenter of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit March 31. No major damage or injuries were reported from the tremblor.
“While there has not been any blanket shutdowns anywhere else in the state yet, a number of contractors have reported a few projects, mostly public works, having been placed on hold by owners,” Hammon notes. Nearly all of those are in the early phases of construction, he says.
All work for the Idaho Transportation Dept., Idaho Division of Public Works and the Ada County Highway District—the three largest public owners in the state—is ongoing.
That’s also the case for other DOTs across the Mountain States region. Projects for the South Dakota DOT were temporarily halted during the week of March 16 as DOT employees shifted to remote work, but all highway projects and bidding have now been restarted across the state.
“Our governor has not enacted any shelter at home mandates yet,” says Russ Hanson, executive vice president, AGC of North Dakota. “There is a suggestion to work at home as much as possible and most employers are doing that where possible.”
Hanson says that North Dakota’s DOT is continuing with bids, awarding contracts and studying how to implement a virtual preconstruction meeting policy.
“We are attempting to get the governor to include construction as an essential occupation, which we have requested as part of a construction coalition,” he says.
This story was updated on April 2 to include the newly released CDPHE guidelines for construction.