- The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced that it scheduled $1.1 billion of projects for this year, roughly the same amount and type of work it took on last year, according to Finance & Commerce.
- MnDOT has 253 projects scheduled for 2018, some of which are already underway. The biggest one is a continuation of work on the $239 million, 2.5-mile overhaul of Interstate 35W in Minneapolis. The work includes new pavement and bridge construction, a transit station for a bus rapid transit line, the conversion of a dynamic shoulder lane to a MnPass toll lane and construction of a new MnPass lane. According to the MnDOT, work this year will also encompass 49 multi-modal projects valued at $32 million, including airport, port and railroad initiatives that are in addition to the agency's surface transportation projects.
- There is still snow on the ground in parts of Minnesota, and the unpredictable weather patterns thus far in 2018 could impact MnDOT's construction schedule. However, MnDOT officials said contractors usually have a sufficient number of weather days built into their project timetables.
Departments of transportation in northern states have a limited amount of time to execute their annual construction programs because of lengthy winters, and one major snarl in the schedule can endanger the livelihoods of road and bridge contractors, as well as their employees.
On July 1, 2016, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie famously shut down all non-critical state road projects after New Jersey Republicans and Democrats could not come to a resolution on how to provide taxpayer relief after lawmakers agreed on a gas-tax hike. As a result, the transportation trust fund that pays for the state's road and highway projects was allowed to be nearly completely drained, leading Christie to stop summer projects in their tracks. Work did not start up again until early October after lawmakers came to an agreement, but the onset of winter weather usually halts highway work in November.
How well highway contractors fair during the winter months is typically based on the work they can fit in during good-weather months. So, unless contractors are prepared to shift to snow and ice control operations in the winter, or pursue work in states with warmer weather, even a short amount of time off can put them in a precarious financial situation until work starts again in the spring. This creates additional pressure on cold-weather state DOTs to accomplish the most work possible that their limited time schedules will allow.