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MDOT director talks road worker safety concerns, COVID's impact on ongoing projects

7 UpFront
Posted at 9:38 PM, Nov 10, 2020

MDOT Director Paul Ajegba spoke with 7 Action News for Thursday's 7 UpFront segment to discuss recent fatal incidents involving construction workers in metro Detroit.

"I am very heartbroken about this last incident because as much as we try to prevent this kind of accidents when they happen, it's just gut-wrenching."

Ajegba says that over the last five years, MDOT has paid state police over $1 million to do enforcement in work zones. Additionally, the government has released campaigns to tell drivers to slow down in work areas.

It was about 15 years ago that MDOT adopted a work zone policy, Ajegba said. The policy was an effort to balance the need of the public while also completing much needed road construction projects. That policy came with night work to accommodate drivers who felt overwhelmed by ongoing construction work primarily happening in the day that was impacting their commutes. However, night construction has proven dangerous for workers. Now, MDOT is taking another look at the policy for additional adjustments, Ajegba said.

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Ajegba also talked about the pandemic's impact on ongoing construction projects, and MDOT’s efforts to keep projects as close to on schedule as possible while using the governor’s bond sale program for funding support.

Since the pandemic began, Ajegba said that they've been able to manage construction projects without much issue. Particularly at the start of the pandemic, when traffic decreased significantly between March and June, Ajegba said contractors were able to make significant progress on road projects. Traffic then picked up around Memorial Day.

He says that one thing he is concerned about is in regard to the governor's $3.5 million bond program, which will increase to about $7.5 million over the next five years, meaning there will be projects all over the place.

"The question is: how do we manage these projects and also manage mobility," Ajegba said.

He added that strong measures will be necessary to address that concern.