Minnesota Pauses to Remember Fallen Highway Workers
Today is Worker Memorial Day in Minnesota.
Governor Tim Walz has issued an official proclamation recognizing "the high-priced transportation workers have paid in the construction and maintenance of Minnesota's transportation system." The I-35W bridge will be lit in orange this evening and honor of Worker Memorial Day.
“Work zone safety is everyone’s responsibility. Our state’s transportation workers keep our roadways operating efficiently and safely, and in turn, it’s on all of us to ensure that they return home safely, as well,” said Governor Walz. “On this Worker Memorial Day, we remember those we have lost, and we recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to keep our workers safe.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says 35 MnDOT employees and 16 private contractors have lost their lives working on Minnesota highways since 1960.
7 of the deaths have involved workers from southeastern Minnesota.
- John Biever: Mr. Biever was working on a bridge on Highway 16 when he was hit by a truck on September 13, 1962.
- Eugene Mitchell: Mr. Mitchell died working for MnDOT while in District 6 on April 23, 1964.
- Earl D. Held: Mr. Held died while on a survey crew. He was on Highway 65 when three of the four men were struck by an automobile on October 30, 1964.
- Roy Carls: Mr. Carls was on his way home from a meeting when his vehicle left the road and hit a bridge abutment. He died March 2, 1968.
- Jerry Holter: Mr. Holter was struck and run over by a truck while performing inspection duties on October 16, 1973.
- Grayston Cain: Mr. Cain lost his life when he was struck by a truck while he was performing inspection duties on August 28, 1980.
- Thomas Schmit: Mr. Schmit fell from a falsework deck suspended under a bridge and drowned in the Mississippi River on October 21, 1994.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation Worker Memorial website has a listing of all of the workers who have died during transportation projects.
A news release from the state agency that includes a list of recommendations for motorists to follow while driving in work zones:
- Stay alert; work zones constantly change due to lane shifts, closures and moving workers and vehicles
- Watch for signs, equipment and workers
- Minimize distractions behind the wheel
- Avoid tailgating
- Slow down. Follow posted speed limits and directional signs
- Be patient; expect delays, especially during peak travel times
MnDOT traditionally holds a memorial ceremony at its District Headquarters but this year's event was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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