High-Speed Rail Construction Continues During The Pandemic But 'It's Not Business As Usual'

Apr 8, 2020

Constructing the high-speed rail can’t be done from home, so to protect employees from COVID-19, workers are operating differently. 

Diana Gomez is the Central Valley Regional Director with the High-Speed Rail Authority. 

“They used to have big group safety meetings every morning,” Gomez said. “Instead of having the big group safety meetings they have smaller ones.”

There’s also a lot of hand washing and social distancing on the construction sites. Gomez said people don’t sit together during lunch like they normally would.

“So even though we are continuing with construction, it’s not business as usual,” said Gomez.  “Every day they’re taking these additional steps required to ensure their safety.” 

Ronny Jungk is with IBEW Local 100, the union representing electrical workers in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare Counties. Some of his union members are working on high-speed rail and he said the precautions are welcome. And workers can leave if they feel unsafe, he said.

"If all of a sudden someone starts coughing, they can say ‘Hey, I’ve had enough of this’ and they can go home and there’s gonna be no adverse effects on them,” he said.

They can take a voluntary furlough, he said. In that situation, the company won’t contest it if they claim unemployment.

But even with the pandemic, the biggest factor interrupting high speed rail work right now is the weather. Which, Gomez said, is to be expected.