While most building construction has been halted in New York City, the MTA has been allowed to proceed with 250 projects, including work on East Side Access, new signals on the Queens Boulevard Line West (E, F, M, R), and the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The agency says the work is essential, and created a new workflow and management style to work safely during the pandemic.

So far, the MTA says 95 out of 5,000 construction workers and consultants have contracted COVID-19. Among these workers, there have been no deaths. To date, 82 subway and bus workers have died as a result of the coronavirus, and one Metro-North worker has died.

“We forced projects to change the logistics of how they do work, we said you have to come up with a plan where you keep people physically separated,“ Janno Lieber, MTA President of Construction & Development, told Gothamist. “Even where there are crews that need to work in some proximity they need to be kept very separate from other crews.”

Lieber said the work is carefully choreographed before each shift so there are only a few workers in each location at a time. Members of different crews aren’t allowed to intermingle. The number of workers entering a bathroom is restricted to ensure there aren’t too many people in there at once. Tools are disinfected daily and aren’t shared.

The agency also created an internal app used to track progress, and utilizes a GoPro camera to monitor progress remotely. For example, on East Side Access, the $11 billion project extending a tunnel to bring the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, Con Edison is able to conduct its site visits via GoPro, reducing the number of people that need to be in the field. (Con Ed is required to inspect any work involving electricity and wiring.)

One issue that technology can’t solve is a broken supply chain, which has caused slowdowns. A concrete company contracted by the MTA shut down for a few days. Out of state manufacturing plants, and glass from Italy, and other supplies coming from Europe have been delayed.

“In many cases we reorganized work so that you try to put that particular component or that piece of work to the side, to minimize the impact on the schedule,” Lieber said. Or they find other companies that can do the work.

As for the L train project, Lieber wouldn’t say exactly when it would be completed, but, despite having to rearrange the logistics for working in such a confined space, he repeated what Chairman Pat Foye has said recently: it’s on schedule, meaning some time in April.

Lieber was set to oversee the MTA’s most ambitious, $51 billion, capital plan in history, but that’s on hold for the moment. In the face of a funding crisis in which the agency is seeking an additional $4 billion federal bailout just to keep trains running for the rest of the year, it’s also reassessing how to move forward with capital improvements. The expected $13 billion in contract awards this year has been put on hold.

But Lieber, who spent 14 years helping with the construction at the World Trade Center is confident things will work out. “I believe passionately that anyone who bets against New York is making a mistake. But we are at an inflection point as far as the rebuilding of the subway system,” he said.

Before COVID-19, the MTA had crawled out of the abysmal service doldrums and was seeing marked improvements in service at all its agencies. Lieber warns the MTA could lose those gains.

“We have to make the investments in the signaling system, in ADA accessibility, in the state of good repair for the whole system to keep those improvements coming and our ability to do that is going to come down to what is the federal government willing to do, I hope we’re going to get a good answer in the next few months,” he said.