The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) held its Annual Remembrance Ceremony honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as the 41 NJDOT employees who lost their lives while on duty. The event pays tribute to their legacies and provides a moment to reflect on their courage which will be remembered forever.
During this year’s Remembrance Ceremony, held on September 11, 2023, NJDOT added the names of five employees to the Department’s Employee Memorial who had given their lives in service as they worked the highways and bridges of the state. These five names were of men who died on the job in the 1940s, while working for the New Jersey State Highway Department, the predecessor of NJDOT. Their names were found as part of an archiving and digitization project by the NJDOT Research Library, part of the Bureau of Research within the Department.
The unveiling of these names occurred during the NJDOT 23rd annual remembrance ceremony and 22nd anniversary of 9/11.
The stories of these five men – Arthur Reinhardt, Walter Eckert, Jeremiah O’Brien, William Kays, and Joseph Platt – were published in an employee newspaper of the Highway Department when they died in the 1940s. However, their names had never been added to the memorial wall. Thirty-six other names of persons who perished on the job (with the most recent being Joe Kealey, who died in 2010) had previously been enshrined on the wall. Research continues to find additional employees of New Jersey’s Highway or Transportation departments who also sacrificed their lives on the job.
Eric Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, gave the keynote speech detailing this archival work and highlighting the lives of the five men.
The NJDOT established its Employee Memorial wall on September 8, 2000, coincidentally about one year before the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11/01. Since 2001, the Employee Memorial has taken on additional meaning, and the ceremony has been held on or about September 11 each year since 2002.
The annual ceremony also honors military personnel and veterans, law enforcement, and emergency responders from NJDOT and the New Jersey State Police. In her welcome remarks, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti noted the many meanings of the day for NJDOT and the importance of work zone safety.
Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti reported on the launch of two initiatives to safeguard roadway workers, first responders, and motorists in 2023. The first was the launch of NJDOT’s incident management training as an online self-guided course. The second is a work zone safety campaign launched this past summer. Radio ads and written advertorials remind the public to slow down and move over when driving through a work zone or when passing a first responder or a disabled car. She pointed out that “slow down and move over” is not just a catchphrase or act to save lives, but also the law.
In 2022, 49 law enforcement officers, emergency responders, tow truck operators, roadside technicians and DOT crew members were struck and killed on the job in the United States. Since September 2022, 24 New Jersey crew members were injured in work zones or while assisting motorists. While none of those New Jersey crew members died, “those are unacceptable numbers,” Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “Work zone safety is a priority at NJDOT and baked into everything we do. She repeated her motto, “Everyone goes home every night.”
Speaking of the names added to the memorial in 2023, Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said: “The deaths of these five men are a reminder that distracted and impaired driving is a deep-rooted issue in this country, a danger that has existed for over a century.”
The Remembrance Ceremony Program for this year’s event can be found here and many photos of this year’s event are shared in an image slider below.
INTERNET ARCHIVAL PROJECT
Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, found the names of the five men as part of a digitization project that the NJDOT is conducting as part of a transportation pooled fund, with the documents being housed on the website of the Internet Archive. Highlights of the initial documents posted to the NJDOT collection include: monthly reports of the Highway Department published from 1956 to 1966; annual reports from the 1940s to 1991; The First Five Years of the Garden State Parkway, 1954-1959; and NJDOT’s 50th anniversary commemorative book from 2016.
The issues of The Highway, an in-house newsletter, reporting the deaths of the five men from the 1940s who gave their lives are also available (Arthur Reinhardt, Walter Eckert, Jeremiah O’Brien, William Kays, and Joseph Platt).
RESOURCES ON WORK ZONE SAFETY
For those researching or seeking to ensure work zone safety, here are several useful resources:
- Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training, NJ Information Resources Portal. This website provides technical assistance resources to support TIM Responder Trainings that bring police, firefighters, DOT, towing, medical personnel, and other incident responders together to engage in interactive, hands-on incident resolution exercises.
- TRID Search on Work Zone Safety. The TRID Database provides access to 1.4 million records of transportation research worldwide. Here is a saved search of research and ongoing projects in the last year on that use “Work Zone Safety” as a search term.
- FHWA Website on Work Zone Safety Management. The FHWA Work Zone Management program develops and deploys solutions and strategies that enable agencies to incrementally and continuously improve work zone management to minimize traffic delays and maintain the safety of all road users and workers. This website provides facts and statistics, best practices, regulations and guidance, training materials, webinars and links to resources on related topics.
- National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse. A project of the Transportation Development Foundation of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). It is operated in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Topics of interest include: Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety, Smart Work Zones, Transportation Management Plans, Accommodating Pedestrians, and Project Coordination in Work Zones.
- National Work Zone Awareness Week. The next Work Zone Awareness Week is set for April 15-19, 2024.
- NJ LTAP Work Zone Safety Trainings. The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program periodically offers training course on work zone safety. Please check calendar for upcoming events.
Photos courtesy of Glenn Catana, Office of Communications, New Jersey Department of Transportation.