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Caltrans Honors Fallen Highway Workers With Memorial Signs Statewide

Caltrans Honors Fallen Highway Workers With Memorial Signs Statewide

Caltrans workers remove a burned out truck along Interstate 5 during the Delta Fire near Delta, Calif., in the Shasta Trinity National Forest on Sept. 6, 2018. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

John Fredricks

John Fredricks

8/26/2023

Updated: 8/27/2023

To honor fallen team members, Caltrans has begun to install memorial signs in roadside rest areas, public spaces, and along California state highways in remembrance of workers that have been killed in the line of duty since 1921, including seven lost in Orange County.
“[Caltrans] lives are literally at stake every day,” Caltrans Director Tony Tavares said in a recent media release. “I implore all Californians to please slow down and move over in every work zone, every time.”
On a recent night along the 55 freeway, a dented sedan aggressively zoomed past a merging line of cars just barely missing safety cones meant to steer traffic away from a dozen Caltrans workers conducting roadside repairs.
“Distracted drivers pose a huge risk not only to themselves and other motorists, but to our co-workers in the field,'' Caltrans Director Ryan Chamberlain who oversees the Orange County area said in a recent media release. “Please be work zone alert and help us ensure that our co-workers return home safely to their families each day.”
A worker tosses a hammer to a colleague as construction continues on the Highway 73 southern interchange from the 405 freeway in Costa Mesa, Calif., on April 21, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A worker tosses a hammer to a colleague as construction continues on the Highway 73 southern interchange from the 405 freeway in Costa Mesa, Calif., on April 21, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Tracing to 1895, California redeveloped its transportation department by unifying multiple functions into one entity in 1973. Caltrans—short for California Department of Transportation—would soon become the department responsible for managing and maintaining one of the nation’s most complex transit systems, according to the Caltrans website.
And its team members have one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In California alone, more than 9,500 traffic collisions occurred in 2021 in Caltrans highway work zones, according to the agency, with 30 percent of fatalities in work zones a result of unsafe speeds.
According to the department, Orange County saw its first Caltrans casualty in 1980 when two maintenance workers were struck by an errant driver along the Anaheim stretch of the Interstate 5 freeway.
Cars merge onto the State Route 73 southern interchange from Interstate 405 in Costa Mesa, Calif., on April 21, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Cars merge onto the State Route 73 southern interchange from Interstate 405 in Costa Mesa, Calif., on April 21, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In addition to the memorial signs, Caltrans is working with the California Transportation Foundation, a non-profit that assists the state’s transportation workers with financial assistance for the families of fallen workers, according to the department.
With the Fallen Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund, families receive up to $2,500 to help defray funeral costs, travel, and expenses not covered by insurance, according to the foundation’s website.
To help the children of fallen workers, the agency and the foundation have also developed a scholarship award—ranging from $1,000 to $5,000—for deceased workers’ surviving children for college expenses or other accredited post-secondary school programs.
“We hold a sacred duty to remember all the people who have lost their lives working with us,” said Mr. Tavares, the Caltrans director.
Since 2010, roadway injuries for all drivers and pedestrians along California’s highways have increased by 52 percent and by 28 percent for fatalities, according to a Caltrans Strategic Highway Plan report released in 2022.
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John Fredricks

John Fredricks

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John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

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