Memorial Honors Work-Zone Victims

Mon April 29, 2002 - National Edition
Lori Lovely

A visually striking new memorial was unveiled in the Washington, D.C. metro area during National Work Zone Awareness Week held April 8-12.

James L. Oberstar (D-MN), ranking Democrat on the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, presented the memorial in ceremonies that began at 10 a.m. April 9 in Capitol Heights, MD.

Commissioned by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the monument was inspired in part by the Vietnam Memorial wall.

ATSSA’s communications director Jim Baron conceived of the idea during last year’s annual work zone event, when 860 cones were set up along the Washington mall to commemorate the number of people killed in work zones the previous year.

“It was a traumatic scene,” Baron recalled. “The visual was so impressive, people asked me how I was going to top it this year. That’s when I started looking at the Vietnam Memorial wall.”

Baron got to thinking about the lack of a permanent memorial to the victims of work zone accidents.

“Every day you read in the newspaper about something strange happening in a work zone,” Baron said. “It’s a tragic statistic that goes relatively unnoticed across America. This should bring the attention of the public in a dramatic way.”

While the cone display had made a striking impact, Baron wanted something permanent, and as with the traveling version of the Vietnam memorial, something transportable.

Baron presented his idea at a conference in Alaska, attended by 38 state Department of Transportation (DOT) public affairs representatives.

“The response was overwhelming,” Baron recalled. “The question and answer session lasted at least half an hour.”

Eastern Metal/USA Sign in Elmira, NY, took a preliminary drawing of Baron’s concept and refined it.

Initially, the names of 700 people killed in work zones are inscribed on the five-panel memorial, which incorporates orange reflective material, white sheeting and other road construction materials into the design.

The wall panels are easy to assemble, and can be quickly dismounted from supporting poles and packed in two shipping cases.

The wall’s expandable design means ATSSA will continue to gather names, which will be added each February, with submission forms available on the association’s Web site.

Names will be placed on the memorial in the order they are received. Baron said the more than 20 DOTs that have participated so far dug deep into old files to come up with the initial batch. Some names date back to incidents in the 1950s.

“What many people don’t realize is the high number of motorists, not just roadway workers, who are killed in work zones,” said Roger Wentz, ATSSA executive director. “This memorial will recognize all people killed in work zones over the years.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the majority (85 percent) of people killed in work zones nationwide are motorists, but the list includes law enforcement agents, public safety officials (such as firefighters and EMTs), children and work zone workers. A small icon appears next to each name on the wall to denote the category to which the victim belonged.

Following the unveiling on April 9, the memorial immediately hit the road, going to Pennsylvania, and then to over a dozen other sites nationwide.

The memorial will be made available to anyone in the roadway industry, and can be used in schools, community centers, DOT lobbies, airports, rest areas and fairs.

Baron said the memorial could play a role in ceremonies launching new roadway construction projects. Educational kiosks will accompany the wall, and visitors to the exhibit will receive literature on work zone safety.

ATSSA also has prepared an information kit for local communities including press materials, statistics, brochures, camera-ready art and suggestions for events and ceremonies.

“So far we’ve seen 20 different ways to present it,” Baron said of the memorial. “It’s interesting to see how the different sites plan to use it.”

Sponsors, designers and builders of the memorial include Reflexite Americas and 3M. Additional sponsors are being sought to assist in covering expenses. Four levels of sponsorship have been designated: platinum at $1,000, gold at $500, silver at $250 and bronze at $100. Sponsor names will be included on the memorial.

For more information, visit CEG

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