InTrans / Nov 17, 2014

Nighttime construction

Go! Magazine

Nighttime constructionposted on November 17, 2014

If you have ever driven late at night and were surprised to see bright lights and a construction zone, you are not the first.

Many studies funded by the Department of Transportation have been conducted to understand whether nighttime construction offers more pros than cons. For example, a study from the Illinois Department of Transportation helps evaluate nighttime construction to weigh the benefits of costs against the consequences on human worker health.

When I see construction workers working between midnight and 6 a.m., my first concern is “How safe is it for the workers?” The health of workers doing nighttime construction is a hot topic for debate. Through this article, I will explain a bit more about why the question, “Is nighttime construction worth it?” is still the central question.

Safety and traffic: The positives and negatives

Remember a time that you drove, or rode in a car, late at night. I’m guessing that you would agree that you were one of a few cars on the road. Less traffic is one positive of nighttime construction. With less cars zooming by, the hope is that construction workers will actually be safer. Also, less car traffic means less idling, and therefore, less air pollution.

But what about less visibility? A negative of having construction projects during the night hours is that it can create a hazard for both the construction workers, by using equipment with decreased lighting, and for drivers, who unexpectedly approach a construction zone.

#1. Myth of Fact: Studies have shown that there is no increase in fatigue or alcohol-related incidents in nighttime work zones?

Worker health

So you might be asking yourself, “What about the construction workers that have to take on these nighttime hours?” Well, these workers are faced with a series of both pros and cons of working at night. Some of the advantages include less exposure to car emissions (since there is less traffic) and an increase in pay. For example, nighttime construction labor costs are 15-20 percent higher, meaning higher pay to the construction workers.

The disadvantages, however, are somewhat important to those considering this type of schedule. Concerns include loss of sleep, disruption of biological clock functions, physiological and mental stress from lack of sleep, and lower perceived level of safety. A statistic from the Transportation Record showed that out of 20 nighttime construction workers, 68 percent slept five hours or less a day, and 100 percent slept six hours or less.1

#2. Myth or Fact: There is a decrease in driver costs when construction is at night instead of daytime?

Environmental impacts

As it stands, there are still issues with increased light and noise pollution from nighttime construction. Currently, research is being conducted on how to reduce noise, vibrations, light, and other disturbances to neighboring communities. Issues and complaints about nighttime construction are not uncommon.

In Los Angeles, there is a $2.8 billion subway line extension that started in the spring of 2014, and is expected to be completed in 2023. One neighbor to the construction site reportedly woke up at 3 a.m. to the yells of construction workers and the beeping noise of a reversing truck. This is just one example of how nighttime construction can be frustrating to nearby residents.

So, is it worth it?

The big question is whether nighttime construction is really worth it. For those that say it is, the reduction in traffic in relation to construction zones is a strong advantage. I feel that more studies are needed to understand the costs associated with day and nighttime construction.

With much infrastructure (across the country) needing maintenance all at once, nighttime construction is a viable way to get more projects done during the warmer months. However, for those against nighttime construction, the associated worker health and environmental impacts are of concern. More research is needed to determine whether the quality and productivity of nighttime workers are the same as daytime workers. Many skeptics believe that quality and productivity decrease at night. If proven true, this would give a strong reason as to why nighttime construction is not worth it.

Myth or Fact Answers:

Fact! There has been no research that has successfully concluded that there is an increase in either of these contributing to traffic accidents in nighttime work zones.

Fact! Since there are less cars at night, there are less construction-related traffic delays, and therefore, less costs to the drivers. Estimated cost savings range from $22,000 to $44,000 per day.


  1. Holguín-Veras, José, Kaan Ozbay, Robert Baker, David Sackey, Angel Medina, and Sajjad Hussain. Toward a Comprehensive Policy of Nighttime Construction Work. Transportation Research. Available at

By Jackie Nester, Go! Staff Writer

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