States’ Transportation Revenues Hit By COVID-19: Mississippi Asphalt Company Says Long-Term Federal Funding A Must

Work that was let before the coronavirus hit is ongoing. Lehman-Roberts is working on a large capacity-adding and rehabilitation project, on Highway 78, in Shelby County in Memphis that received federal funding. In another ongoing job that received federal dollars, on Highway 278 in Lafayette County in Mississippi, crews are able to work safely during the day because of less traffic.

The last federal surface-transportation reauthorization ends in less than three months. A recently passed House Bill was seen by some as moving away from the core of traditional roadwork needed in our country and a redline centered on carbon emissions. The Senate has yet to hammer out its response or financing legislation.

Lehman-Roberts has a record that points to American ingenuity and perseverance. Here are two changes that speak to how the business and labor sectors must continually address customer needs:

  • Transportation officials approached the company about working together on a new pavement innovation. A 6.25 millimeter thin-lift pavement for low-volume routes was developed. The same cost can cover more square yards while still protecting the underlying lifts and helping with rutting (which can hold moisture). Also less expensive, but still durable, materials are used in the mix.
  • During COVID-19 and because paper tickets generally accompany loads of asphalt as they move from the plant to job-sites, Lehman-Roberts developed an e-ticketing capability. These tickets no longer have to move from “hand to hand.” Tickets are available through an electronic format and people also can see the image of the original ticket.

American Infrastructure Workers Keep Rolling

The men and women who work in the aggregates and paving industries are essential workers on the front lines of modernizing America’s infrastructure, but they are also on the frontlines of battling COVID-19.

“If one person tests positive for COVID-19 on one of these jobs, then everyone else has to be quarantined and then they are affected too. We are a socially distanced group naturally because we are outside. We tend to be separated a lot doing work, or a worker’s in a piece of equipment and doesn’t have anyone else in there, so we’re distanced but companies are going through more extreme measures to make sure people are safe,” says Pepper. “The road builders and related workforce have continued to work and not just rely on stimulus checks or unemployment if they don’t have to. They have risked their lives, their families’ lives, by getting out there and continuing to work and doing their duty. We’re very proud of our workforce getting out there and working. Instead of just coolers of water, there are coolers of sanitizer.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Lehman-Roberts went to extraordinary measures after one employee on a project tested positive. But a typical day now requires reinforcing masks, when needed, and protective gear, sanitizing, isolating those who are ill, social distancing outside, not cross-pollinating crews, keeping office staff working safely, and trying to deal with potential virus exposure in families.

The ongoing pandemic will continue to present different concerns for states and protocols for businesses like Lehman-Roberts as the country focuses on heightened safety measures and on how substantial federal infrastructure investment can help propel job creation and security, and our economy.

“We’ve learned that there is a misconception by some in the American public that the role of federal funding is not integral in modernizing an aging and decades-old system and that states and localities do it alone,” says Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition Executive Director Ed Mortimer. “But regions rely on federal partners to help jumpstart and finish important connections in our systems, from safer airports and ports, to less congested roads and improved bridges, newer technologies and more efficient public transportation. We’ve asked these industries to keep America safe and moving forward. The least we can do is give them a meaningful and long-term federal stimulus package.”

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