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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
National Work Zone Awareness Week 2002 Kickoff/News Conference
Tuesday, April 9, 2002
Capitol Heights, Maryland

I would like to express my sympathy to the families for their loss. They will not be forgotten. We must all work together to eliminate such needless tragedies in the future.

Norman Mineta, our Secretary of Transportation, has said, "Safety is the number one transportation priority of the Bush Administration and a job that is never finished." He is committed to raising the bar on safety and the Federal Highway Administration is just as committed as the Secretary to dramatically improving safety on our highways.

The goal of every individual and group here this morning is to save lives and reduce crashes in work zones. However, if we want to see substantial change, all of us have to begin putting more thought into each decision about a project that leads to a work zone. It is no longer enough to think only about the orange barrels and barricades. Mobility and safety go hand in hand.

This summer we will see more work zones than ever. Large parts of our Interstate system are almost 50 years old. Many other roads and bridges are wearing out. Construction is needed to keep our highways the best in the world and to protect the mobility of the American people.

Let's talk about one specific number, one thousand ninety three. We're not talking about a thousand or nearly 1,100. We're talking about real people with faces and families. The best number we have for work zone deaths in 2000 is one thousand ninety-three people. That number is up significantly -- 26 percent -- from 1999. Each year over 80% of all fatalities in work zone crashes are motor vehicle occupants.

Our public surveys tell us that people want us to think differently about how we do highway projects. Through careful examination of all the processes that lead up to a highway project, we intend to make a substantial change in the impact of a work zone on travelers and workers. If we are going to preserve mobility and increase safety, we need to go beyond what we've done in the past. We have to take a broader view of the whole process starting at the project development stage. We must examine all of our decisions so that we reduce the exposure of travelers and workers to the hazards in work zones.

Traffic is growing and congestion is growing. We are traveling more miles without significantly increasing highway capacity. Congestion leads to frustration for someone who's late arriving at some place important.

With all that rushing around, it makes sad sense that the most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear end collision. FHWA is working in partnership with the transportation associations and other groups here this morning, with government -- particularly state DOTs -- and with industry.

We want to:

  • Think beyond our traditional approaches to work zones and look at the work zone itself. That means commitment to life-cycle cost analysis to evaluate project options and the use of long-life pavement to reduce frequency of repairs.
  • Plan and design projects to get in, get out, and stay out.
  • Develop analytic tools to estimate work zone delays and user costs.
  • Identify and promote the use of work zone best practices.
  • Tell travelers what to expect far enough in advance so they can plan an alternative route.
  • Design defensive work zones to protect workers from motorists.
  • Total road closures where appropriate.

We call on everyone to make work zones work better. Mobility and safety can and must go hand in hand. When roadwork is complete, all of us benefit from safer roads and fewer delays.

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Page last modified on September 14, 2012.
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