Moving Tribute

July 18, 2002

It seems important people always demand something custom made.

  As Eastern Metal/USA Sign, Elmira, N.Y., was closing construction on the American Traffic Safety Services Association’s (ATSSA) National Work Zone Memorial some wondered how they were going to make it move. Transporting the five panels which listed 744 names of those killed in the roadwork environment required a firm—and delicate—hand. Special attention had to be given to the crates . . . the custom-made crates.

The detail was one of many considered by ATSSA, which felt the behind-the-scenes scramble of a large project such as this from the get-go.

“There was a lot of things going on,” Jim Baron, director of communications for ATSSA, told Roads & Bridges.

Road flair for design

It was right in front of the Washington Monument in April 2001 where Baron stood tall with his idea. The traffic safety association’s first work-zone shrine—868 traffic cones for those who lost a life in 1999—was wrapping up in Washington, D.C., when ink already started to run on the 2002 planner.

“Someone asked me what I was going to do next year,” recalled Baron. “I hadn’t even thought about it, and just at that moment I looked down the Mall and saw the Vietnam Memorial Wall and thought to myself that would be a great thing to have for men, women and children killed in work zones.”

After approaching Jan Miller, vice president of sales for Eastern Metal/USA Sign, Baron “roughed out” a design on his computer that called for square panels. The digital sketch was turned over to Steve Eller, graphic designer and marketing associate for Eastern Metal/USA Sign, who quickly became the project’s character builder. Sections representing a curved roadway replaced square panels. The whole project would end up taking about 11 months to complete.

“(Miller) called me back and asked me if he could make some changes,” said Baron. “What they returned to me was just a phenomenal rendering of what this thing was going to look like. They went in and gave it a roadway theme.”

ATSSA also was on the receiving end when it came to donations for the me-morial. 3M, St. Paul, Minn., and Reflexite Americas, New Britain, Conn., donated material, a corrugated plastic called Endurance, for the panels. The two companies worked off templates supplied by Eller to give the product a second color—construction orange.

The material arrived at Eastern Metal/USA Sign in 4- by 8-ft sheets. Workers used a simple jigsaw to cut and shape the panels—the tallest is approximately 84 in. and the shortest is 60 in. Each section is 40 in. wide, and the five together span 23 ft 7 in.

For the names, the idea was to place seven lanes on each piece and list those killed in work zones below. Different symbols represent different people: child (cross), law enforcement official (shield), motorist (circle), pedestrian (person), work-zone worker (diamond) and public safety official (black square/white cross).

Software helped with name alignment. After input, the computer spit out a group of names ready to be placed on each panel. So all Eastern Metal/USA Sign had to do was apply an adhesive sheet.

For the frame, Eastern Metal/USA Sign used another area of its corporate mind.

“We have a department that also does custom and commercial architectural work, so as far as the posts and the base plates those are all extrusions we normally use in the architectural end of things,” said Eller.

The memorial maker, however, has never had a use for custom-made crates, which is where Custom Case Co. stepped in. Eller provided weights, material sizes and everything else that was going to be shipped. The crates were made to hold over 500 lb. Two are currently used to haul the memorial from city to city, but a third crate was built knowing that more panels will be added down the line.

Noodles of requests

While Eastern Metal/USA Sign shaped the traveling showpiece, ATSSA attempted to circle dates.

“We put this big map up and started putting little yellow stickies on this map as far as who wanted this memorial and when,” said Baron. “It was mind boggling. It was like, ‘OK, New York wants it here and Texas wants it there.’ It was like a big bowl of spaghetti.”

The pasta puzzle wasn’t making sense, and to make matters worse ATSSA was constantly on the phone answering questions like how the memorial was going to get to a particular place, how it’s set up and how it’s taken down.

Monica Worth was hired as a consultant to create some structure in the scheduling system. Worth has worked with the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, so she was a veteran herself in this area.

“We basically threw everything up in the air and said, ‘Monica, you catch it and figure everything out,’” joked Baron.

The memorial exchange also became a problem. Initially, it was thought DOT workers could meet at state borders with their pickup trucks and pass the five-piece set along. The weight, however, became an issue.

“If it was done that way you would need a forklift,” said Baron.

Professional movers were hired and use a hydraulic lift on the end of a 18-wheeler to deliver the memorial. The company also could have a broken part shipped and repaired in two days.

“If we didn’t have that service and the memorial was dropped and something broke, the show would have to be canceled for the year,” said Baron.

Collecting the names was an added chore. Wherever Baron traveled he would talk about the idea and ask for names, and there was heavy promotion at Traffic Expo 2002. Several ATSSA members also took the information and gave it to their DOT public affairs officers, and the National Law Enforcement Memorial submitted several names as well. Baron said a majority of those killed in work zones are motorists, but only 10 are currently on the memorial.

“I just think that’s because most of the names were submitted by DOTs, so they were workers,” he said.

This project wasn’t without the last-minute hurdles, either. On top of the crate dilemma ATSSA discovered late that something had to be done so Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.), ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, could actually “unveil” the memorial.

ATSSA tossed it back to Eastern Metal/USA Sign, which created black front covers and T-shaped removal devices.

A site to see

High winds wreaked havoc over the dusty construction site in Capitol Heights, Md., during the unveiling ceremony of the memorial on April 9. But when it was all over, there wasn’t a dry eye under the white tent set up by ATSSA.

Amy Snyder, American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s Highway Workers Memorial Scholarship recipient, capped the long list of speakers with a heart-tugging speech about her stepfather, Heiland Goldsborough, who was killed in a work zone in 1999. His name is one of the 744 honored on the memorial.

Snyder was actually enjoying a school field trip, which included a tour of an ambulance, when she heard news of a road accident. She later learned it was Goldsborough.

“Each morning when I got up for school he would leave me a note saying he loved me and he would pick me up after school,” said an emotional Snyder, a student at Bradley Academy in York, Pa. “Standing here and talking to you is hard, but I’m doing this to make sure somebody else’s dad will be there and pick them up after school.”

Baron was moved by all the family members in attendance, which included ATSSA “Roadway Worker Memorial Scholarship” winners Angela Finch and Trevor Davies.

“I looked at all the families there. I’ve been through a few things in my life where people forget the families, and the families are always the poor people left behind. It was so good to see the families show up for this,” he said.

When Oberstar spoke he recalled his early days working in the open pit mines. It was there where he witnessed a horrific event, and Oberstar has been a safety advocate ever since.

“I watched a dump truck back up and kill a worker,” he said. “The problem is when a work-zone fatality happens it doesn’t make the evening news. We can do better as a country. We have to do better.”

After Oberstar’s words members of the victim’s families, including Snyder, Finch and Davies, helped unveil the black-covered memorial. They were then allowed to copy the names of loved ones using paper and pencil, much like what is done at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

“I had no idea that the memorial was going to be on that grand of scale,” said Eller. “It was kinda overwhelming, but it also was exciting.”

“There was six months of work and then you saw everything right in front of your face,” said Carrie Tarquinio, ATSSA public relations coordinator who works closely with Baron. “It makes an impact on you. And then to see everyone’s expression in the crowd. It was really emotional.”

The memorial is currently working its way through a multi-city tour. At the end of the year National Capital Industries, Lorton, Va., will check for damage and add more names.

As far as what’s in store for 2003, Baron isn’t whispering any secrets.

“It’s going to involve the memorial, but this will be a different angle.”

About the Author

Bill Wilson

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