Moratorium Prompted by Freeway Worker Deaths Won't Interrupt Local Projects

Three workers have been killed recently, prompting Caltrans to review safety policies.

The construction project to build more capacity on Belmont Shore-accessed freeways will not be impacted by a state freeway maintenance moratorium this week after the deaths of freeway workers in three separate accidents.

During the last two months, three freeway maintenance workers have been killed. In the most recent accident, Richard Gonzalez, a married father of two, was killed in San Diego as he was picking up trash along I-15. The latest tragedy prompted Caltrans to review its safety policies.

The moratorium will not affect the ongoing West County Connector Project work on the Seventh Street bridge in Long Beach, the San Diego Freeway (405) in Seal Beach or work along the San Gabriel Freeway (605) in Rossmoor--or a city project on Seal Beach Boulevard in coming weeks, Orange County Transportation Authority officials said. But Laura Scheper, spokeswoman for the OCTA, which is overseeing the years-long project,  urged drivers to take the tragedy as a reminder to take additional precautions in construction zones, including:

  • Slow down when you see the orange traffic cones. Do not speed in work zones.
  • Stay alert. Expect the unexpected.
  • Watch for workers; drive with caution.
  • Don't change lanes unnecessarily.
  • Turn on headlights so that workers and other drivers can see you.
  • Be especially alert at night while driving in work zones.
  • Expect delays, especially during peak travel times.
  • Allow ample space between you and the car in front of you.
  •  Merge early.
  • Anticipate lane shifts, and merge when directed to do so. 

Gonzalez, 52, of San Ysidro, was picking up litter near the northbound I-15 ramp Monday when he tried to walk across the freeway for unknown reasons, according to the California Highway Patrol. Gonzalez was struck by a vehicle, which tried to avoid him, and died at the scene. The 27-year-old driver was determined not to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol after a sobriety screening and was released from custody, police said.

In a statement, Gov. Jerry Brown said, "As we cope with this tragedy, I remind all Californians to stay alert on our roadways and slow down when Caltrans workers are present."

Gonzalez had worked for Caltrans since July 2008 and leaves behind a wife and two sons, ages 12 and 22. His death comes two weeks after Jaime Obeso, 53, a Caltrans staffer from Imperial, was hit by a car June 7  alongside I-8 in the El Centro area. On May 4, Stephen Palmer Sr., a 64-year-old landscape worker from Jamul, was struck and killed by a trolley in National City.

Less than a week before Palmer's death, Caltrans held its 21st annual Workers Memorial at the Capitol to honor the 175 workers killed on the job since the 1920s. Highway work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to Caltrans, The risk of death is seven times greater for highway workers than for the average worker.With Gonzalez's death Monday and the two others since May, that figure rises to 178.


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