Caltrans recently honored the lives of 189 highway workers who died keeping others safe at its 30th annual memorial near the Caltrans Workers Memorial Bridge spanning the Sacramento River.
To remember the fallen workers who built and maintained the state’s transportation system, Caltrans placed 189 orange traffic cones bearing the name of every worker lost since 1921 configured in a diamond shape to symbolize a highway caution sign. A single black cone at the center of this formation signifies all workers lost on the state highway system, including private contractors and CHP officers. This year’s tribute did not include a public event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We remain impassioned to honor our fallen heroes and their families this year, despite the physical distancing measures we are all taking,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Regardless of the challenges we may face as a state, we must all pause to remember the sacrifices made by these individuals and their loved ones.”
The commemoration included two Honor Guards watching over the symbolic tribute and a Caltrans truck equipped with an illuminated message sign reading “In Memory of Fallen Workers.” Additionally, flags were at half-staff on Thursday, April 30 at the State Capitol and at all Caltrans facilities across the state in honor of those lost.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In 2018, more than7,000 work-zone collisions occurred on California roadways. About 2,300 resulted in injuries, and 46 involved a fatality. Nationally, drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of the people who are killed in work zones.
Drivers are reminded to keep highway workers safe by allowing enough space for workers by moving over a lane, when safe to do so, as they pass vehicles with flashing amber lights and by slowing down to “Be Work Zone Alert.”
Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop two funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job. The Fallen Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces and the Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship is available to the children of these workers.
For more information or to make donations, visit www.transportationfoundation.org.