Publisher’s Message February 2021: Welcome to 2021!

Well, 2020 was certainly an interesting year anyway. Like everyone else, I am glad to finally have 2020 in the rearview mirror while looking forward to a better year in 2021. While we are likely facing a “new normal” when we finally have the pandemic behind us – work-from-home and videoconferencing aren’t going away any time soon – it will be nice getting back out and meeting people face-to-face (and without my facemask fogging up my glasses!).

Looking back at 2020, the tunneling industry was fortunate for the most part in that work was deemed essential and projects were able to forge ahead. But there have still been challenges associated with construction. New work practices to accommodate social distancing and disinfection have impacted production, while illnesses and quarantine periods further strain an already limited workforce.

Perhaps the most important consequence, and one whose impact has yet to be fully understood, is the impact on metro agencies. Like many American businesses, and businesses around the world, transit agencies took a hit in ridership and revenue as the result of the pandemic. As vaccinations are rolling out, hopefully we’ll start to see a return to typical ridership levels in the coming months, but the shortfalls could impact future capital projects.

In this issue, we polled four tunneling industry professionals to get their comments on the market in 2021 and beyond. For the most part, the panel – consisting of Dave Harvanek (DSI), Gary Kramer (Hatch), Julian Prada (Stantec) and Bob Stier (Drill Tech) – are optimistic about the future of the industry, citing widespread needs for water/wastewater and transportation infrastructure. However, one of the biggest challenges – funding – is likely to still be an issue, especially in light of the financial uncertainties resulting from the pandemic. The panelists also cite a need to recruit the next generation of tunnel builders and engineers.

Also in this issue, we have an interesting article from HNTB’s Bernd Hagenah, Thomas Grassi, Jesse Harder and Sanja Zlatanic discussing the impact of the pandemic on transit resiliency. Specifically, they look at some of the safety measures, procedures and protocols that can be implemented to promote safe public transit and increase the resiliency of systems during a pandemic.

Wishing everyone a prosperous 2021!

Jim Rush, Editor/Publisher, TBM

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