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Transportation

As Coronavirus Quiets Streets, Some Cities Speed Road and Transit Fixes

With cities in lockdown and workplaces closed, the big drop in traffic and transit riders allows road repair and construction projects to rush forward.
San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency employees turn an empty cable car in San Francisco on March 4. The city has taken advantage of the commuting and tourism lull to complete transportation-related construction projects.
San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency employees turn an empty cable car in San Francisco on March 4. The city has taken advantage of the commuting and tourism lull to complete transportation-related construction projects.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Eerie drone footage, dispersed block parties, unobstructed wildlife wanderings: The empty streets of the coronavirus era have given rise to all manner of creative applications. They’re also being put to practical use, with several U.S. cities seizing the opportunity to accelerate improvements to their transportation systems.

Los Angeles, where traffic levels have dropped 60% under shelter-in-place orders, may be the most prominent example. On March 31, the Beverly Hills City Council voted to approve a full temporary closure of a segment of Wilshire Boulevard, allowing the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to expedite pile installation and the construction of a new concrete street deck on phase two of the extension of the L.A. Metro’s Purple Line into the heart of Beverly Hills.