Memorial Honors 184 Caltrans Highway Workers Killed on the Job

Since 1921, a total of 184 Caltrans employees have been killed in traffic accidents while on the job, 19 in San Diego and Imperial counties

A display of 184 orange safety cones in San Diego Tuesday symbolized the lives of highway workers killed in traffic accidents on the job over the last nine decades.

Caltrans and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials held the 26th annual Highway Workers Memorial Day ceremony in honor of the 184 Caltrans highway workers who have died on duty since 1921.

Each orange cone – displayed in front of the Caltrans District Office on Taylor Street near Old Town – featured the name of a Caltrans worker, along with the year they died.

Nineteen of the 184 cones signified Caltrans employees who lost their lives while working on highways in San Diego and Imperial counties, including longtime bridge engineer Oscar Vargas. 

Vargas – a 29-year veteran of Caltrans – died on July 14, 2015, when he lost control of his work truck and crashed into an embankment on Interstate 8. At the time of his death, Vargas had most recently worked as a transportation civil engineer who worked in bridge construction.

"It's hard to drive around San Diego County without finding a bridge with Oscar's fingerprints on it," Caltrans District 11 Director Laurie Berman said at the memorial.

"Each of the cones represent a life cut short while serving the people of California," she added.

The tribute was attended by various Caltrans leaders including Berman, Director of Maintenance and Operations Steve Takigawa, Deputy District Director of Construction and Land Surveys Amer Bata, District Division Chief of Maintenance Everett Townsend and CHP Chief Jim Abele. Bagpipes were played at the beginning of the ceremony as attendees paid their respects.

Speakers stressed the importance of safe driving at all times, as motorists' actions on our roadways can have direct impact on the lives of highway workers every day.

Contact Us