On my way to work most mornings I walk past a small plaza near the entrance to the Transportation Building on the Capitol Mall. Embedded in the plaza are seven stone tablets engraved with the names of 77 ODOT workers killed on the job.
I think of those workers every day, of the kids who grew up without a mom or a dad, of the husbands and wives who lost their loved ones, and of what could have been done to save their lives.
May was work zone safety month in Oregon and around the country, but this issue deserves our attention year round. All road users need to be aware of the workers whose job often places them in high risk conditions in order to build and maintain our state's transportation system.
It's not just about ODOT professionals. Flaggers and construction workers are equally at risk, as are the police and firefighters and tow truck operators — everyone who builds, operates and maintains our transportation system, protects our safety, or responds to crashes. We need to look out for all them.
Work zone safety isn't just about the workers. Four of every five work zone crash victims are drivers and their passengers. We averaged 555 work zone crashes every year in Oregon from 2013 through 2019. That's one crash every 16 hours. People are injured. Killed. Not going home to family and friends at the end of the day.
As we start another busy summer construction season, expect to see a lot of activity on the Portland area roads. ODOT's work will include ramp closures along Interstate 405 for bridge joint repairs, new RealTime travel information signs on I-5 from Marine Drive to I-405, improved weight capacity on three area bridges and new auxiliary lanes on I-205 from Johnson Creek to the Glenn Jackson Bridge.
Road-users can stay up to date on what's happening on Portland area highways in our weekly construction report, which comes out every Friday. The report includes construction information for the upcoming week, giving you the most up-to-date information for targeted areas in the Portland-metro region. Knowing what's coming in the days ahead can not only inform your travel plans, but alert you to work zones locations and workers on the road. And TripCheck.com remains a great source for what's up on the roads right now.
Whenever possible, we also try to close major roads for work only at night when there's less traffic. That's more convenient for the public but also presents more hazardous conditions with decreased visibility and more impaired drivers.
In 2005, I was graced with the good fortune of becoming director of ODOT. I leave this job at the end of June very grateful and very proud of many of the efforts we've undertaken in the last 14 years and the strong relationships ODOT forged with our transportation partners. But nothing haunts me more than the memory of people injured and killed doing their job on the roads. I leave with a plea that we all look out for each other on the roads so every one of us can get home safely.
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