Caltrans Honors Fallen Highway Workers with Memorial Signs in State Roadside Rest Areas


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Caltrans District 2 has announced the installation of memorial signs in roadside rest areas along the California state highway system to honor the 15 workers who died in the line of duty and to encourage travelers to drive responsibly. As of August 15, 2023, memorial signs have been installed at both the J.C. Helmick (Interstate 5 – Tehama County) and Collier (Interstate 5 – Siskiyou County) Safety Roadside Rest Areas.

The memorial signs were designed, manufactured, and are being installed by Caltrans workers to recognize the 191 highway workers who have been killed on the job since 1921. Every year, Caltrans employees, family members of fallen workers, and community members throughout California gather to honor these workers and to promote safe driving campaigns.

“Safety is Caltrans’ top priority,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Lives are literally at stake every day. We hold a sacred duty to remember all the people who have lost their lives working with us, and I implore all Californians to please slow down and move over in every work zone, every time. A life may depend on it.”

Since 1921, 15 employees in District 2 have lost their lives in the line of duty. A brief description of our fallencan be seen at the bottom of this page.

“The men and women of Caltrans put their lives at risk everyday to maintain and construct our state highway system,” said Dave Moore, District 2 Director. “Having these memorial signs visible at rest areas in District 2 and throughout the state serve as a reminder of those we have lost and the importance of slowing down and driving carefully around highway crews in order to prevent another tragedy.”

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With the passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs of 2021 as well as Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, Caltrans and local agencies now have significant additional funds to repair and maintain California’s transportation system. The additional funding has increased the number of Caltrans employees and contractors working on the state highway system, highlighting the importance for drivers to stay vigilant and aware.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. In 2021, more than 9,500 work zone collisions occurred on California highways, resulting in an estimated 2,971 injuries and 73 fatalities. Nationally, drivers and passengers account for 85 percent of people who are killed in work zones.

In 2022, Caltrans announced a new Director’s Policy on Road Safety, which commits the department to the Safe System approach and reaffirms the vision of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries on state highways by 2050. This policy takes steps to further a shift that began in 2020, as state transportation leaders recognized that a bolder and more focused approach was necessary to combat the troubling rise in fatalities and serious injuries on California roads. The state’s 2020-24 Strategic Highway Safety Plan – managed by Caltrans and involving more than 400 stakeholders – was updated to include the Safe System approach.

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Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop two funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job. The Fallen Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces and the Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship is available to the children of these workers. For more information or to make donations, visit the California Transportation Foundation.

Caltrans District 2 Fallen Workers: 

George W. Rice, 1924 – maintenance foreman who was killed while supervising a rock crushing operation near Castella in Shasta County. 

Frank Rais, 1926 – maintenance worker killed by a tree that was uprooted in a windstorm, crushing the vehicle he was driving near Lewiston in Trinity County. 
U.S. Grant, 1926 – maintenance foreman who was killed while attempting to extinguish a fire on a wooden bridge across the Klamath River near Orleans in Humboldt County.   
F.S. Christensen, 1935 – powderman who was killed in a premature explosion during the construction of the Feather River Highway.   
Raymond Buland, 1935 – assistant highway engineer who was killed in an accident near Tulelake, where he was working as a resident engineer on a grading project.   
Lyle Bilyue, 1962 – assistant highway engineer who was killed as the result of an automobile collision on State Route 299 near Canby. 
Raphael Kreizenbeck, 1964 – Highway Maintenance Man II who was killed when he was crushed between his patch truck and an errant vehicle near Newell on State Route 139. 
Benny Shreves, 1973 – Equipment Operator II who was killed on State Route 96 near Happy Camp when a large dead tree fell from the top of a 100-foot cliff and landed on the 10-wheel dump truck he was driving.
Carl Taylor, 1976 – Landscape Maintenance Worker II who was killed by an errant vehicle while walking behind a spray rig on the shoulder of Interstate 5 just north of the Tehama/Glenn County line.   
Wade Brewen, 1980 – Equipment Operator who was killed on US 395, approximately 30 miles north of Susanville.  A member of a four-person crew patching potholes, he was struck and killed by an errant motorist who entered the work zone. 

Robert Essenpreis, 1993 – Civil Transportation Engineer who was killed when he was crushed under the wheels of a full sand truck in a construction zone on Interstate 5, while inspecting a slurry seal job. 

Muoi Tran, 2008 – Civil Transportation Engineer who died as the result of an automobile collision while working as part of a survey crew on the Red Bluff Maintenance Station construction site.
Shawn Baker, 2013 – Equipment Operator II who was killed on State Route 96 in Siskiyou County due to a slide during a rock scaling operation. 
Robert Jones, 2013 – Equipment Operator II who was killed on State Route 96 in Siskiyou County due to a slide during a rock scaling operation. 
Tracy Criss, 2016 – Equipment Operator II who passed away while conducting snow removal operations near Big Valley Mountain Summit in Lassen County.