SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Caltrans dignitaries, employees, families and friends gathered today on the west steps of the State Capitol for the 33rd Annual Workers Memorial to honor the memory of 191 roadway workers who have died in the line of duty since 1921 as well as emphasizing the need for all travelers to drive safely through work zones.
Special commemorations were paid to Ali Shabazz and Quanda McGadney, two Caltrans employees who tragically lost their lives while working in 2022.
“This is why we always say safety is Caltrans’ top priority,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Lives are literally at stake every day, and tragically, we lost two of our devoted workers in the past year. At Caltrans, we hold a sacred duty to remember all the people who have lost their lives working with us. I ask all Californians to please slow down and move over in every work zone, every time. A life may depend on it.”
Quanda, a 51-year-old Caltrans landscape maintenance worker from Vallejo, was killed after being struck by an impaired, hit-and-run driver on the morning of June 3, 2022, while working along Interstate 80 near Vacaville. Quanda had served the people of California for more than 18 years and joined Caltrans in 2018. She is survived by her daughter, Nairobi, and her sisters, Priscilla Stevenson and Candice McGadney.
Ali, a 48-year-old Caltrans civil engineer from Fresno, was killed on duty after his vehicle was struck late on the night of August 7, 2022, while he was heading to a job site near Fresno. Shabazz joined Caltrans in 2006. He is survived by his wife, Nia, and their eight children.
The annual memorial – in addition to honoring families and allowing staff the opportunity to pay respects to their fallen colleagues – is also a reminder for drivers to “Be Work Zone Alert” and “Move Over” when they see flashing amber lights ahead, or slow down if not safe to do so.
On Thursday, Caltrans arranged 189 orange traffic cones in a diamond “caution sign” configuration, adding two additional cones during the ceremony, each bearing the name of an employee killed on the job since 1921. A black cone in the center represented all people killed while working on the state highway system, including private contractors, tow truck drivers, California Highway Patrol officers and other emergency responders.
The commemoration also included the Caltrans Honor Guard, who led the symbolic tribute. Additionally, flags flew at half-staff at the State Capitol, the Capitol Annex Swing Space and at all Caltrans facilities.
With the passage of Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, as well as the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Caltrans and local agencies now have significant additional funds to repair and maintain California’s transportation system. The additional funding has increased the number of Caltrans employees and contractors working on the state highway system, highlighting the importance for drivers to stay vigilant and aware.
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 2021, more than 9,500 work zone collisions occurred on California highways, resulting in an estimated 2,971 injuries and 73 fatalities. Nationally, drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of people who are killed in work zones.
In 2022, Caltrans announced a new Director’s Policy on Road Safety, which commits the department to the Safe System approach and reaffirms the vision of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries on state highways by 2050. This policy takes steps to further a shift that began in 2020, as state transportation leaders recognized a bolder and more focused approach was necessary to combat the troubling rise in fatalities and serious injuries on California roads. The state’s 2020-24 Strategic Highway Safety Plan – managed by Caltrans and involving more than 400 stakeholders – was updated to include the Safe System approach.
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 the California Transportation Foundation.
Following the conclusion of the ceremony, broadcast-quality raw video will be prepared and available for download via Dropbox.