Workers getting construction jumpstart as winter temps remain mild

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Believe it or not, winter is normally cold.

The effects of a mild winter are being felt in construction crews around the Midstate.

A PennDOT project was moved up a few days, another is underway so it’s not happening this summer, and construction companies are seeing more opportunities.

“I think normal is probably the most unusual word we can use about winter in this part of the country,” said Michael Doner, co-owner and CEO of the traffic control company Flagger Force.

This winter, they’ve been out in force.

“The gas company, the water company, the electric company,” Doner said, “they’re all out there working to develop our communities, to improve the infrastructure.”

Paving work is tough in the cold, he said, but the weather central Pennsylvania has been enjoying is ideal for the work that happens beyond the surface.

The lane-widening project on Interstate 81 in Cumberland County is moving forward about a week early because of the warmth.

“Usually, when you try to paint this time of year,” as the crews working on that project will have to, PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said, “cold temperatures, the paint doesn’t adhere very well to the pavement and tends to flake up.”

Then there are projects like the bridge replacement near Hersheypark started a few days ago. Warmer weather means employees can do that work now instead of when tourists are in town. There’s also the added benefit that workers who have to be outside don’t freeze.

Plus, Penny said, PennDOT isn’t spending money on salt.

“And also, we haven’t really consumed much in terms of overtime payments,” he added, “so that will give us more money going into the spring that we can probably add a couple new road projects is each of our counties.”

Bigger counties could see savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, private sector builders are seeing a bump, too. Dave Sheppard, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Harrisburg, said their members have been able to start digging basements ahead of schedule.

Eric Burger, president of Susquehanna Valley Builders, said he’ll be able to dig for a septic system in the next few days — normally out of the question with the frozen ground. Home buyers are also willing to test the waters earlier in warmer weather, he said.

But take it from Doner, someone who’s been doing this for years — it’s still early.

“We’re optimistic that we’re soon going to get to spring weather,” Doner said, “and if we get a late winter snow storm, it’ll just be a minor inconvenience.”Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.

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