More than 200 construction workers took part in a “unity ride” Wednesday to raise awareness about work zone safety, nearly a month after six people were killed at a site in the median of the Baltimore Beltway.

Participants began their hourlong afternoon ride at noon at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and ended at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, traveling on I-97, I-695 and I-83. Workers made a point to drive the posted speed limit along the route.

“Certainly, the six on 695 are at the forefront of our minds right now,” said Stephen Bucy, director of the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Office of Construction. “But we want to remember the others that have been hit recently, and in the years past, as well — there are too many close calls every day.”

Maryland Transportation Builders & Materials Association President Michael Sakata said he felt the convoy is a good reminder to drivers to stay alert in highway work zones, and to remember those who have been injured or killed.

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“I think our industry message here is to slow down in work zones and save lives,” Sakata said.

Rolando Ruiz, Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, Jose Armando Escobar, Mahlon Simmons III, Mahlon Simmons II, and Sybil Lee Dimaggio were all killed on March 22 when the driver of a 2017 Acura TLX collided with a 2017 Volkswagen Jetta and entered a work zone on the shoulder of the I-695 inner loop near I-70.

The incident is one of the deadliest work zone crashes across the U.S. and in Maryland between 1980 and 2020, according to a Banner analysis of Fatality Analysis Reporting System data maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to a preliminary report released last week from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Acura went through an opening in a protective barrier meant for construction vehicles before hitting the workers.

Five of the workers were employed by Concrete General Inc., a Gaithersburg-based firm that Bucy said is one of the state’s largest contractors.

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The state has added buffers between live traffic and workers to make the construction sites safer and posted additional signage. Police are out monitoring for speeding, Bucy said.

Transportation officials say excessive speeds, aggressive lane switching and cellphone use are just some of the ways motorists further endanger the 300 work zones across Maryland every day.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller joined transportation officials at SHA headquarters Tuesday to urge safety and awareness in work zones as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Moore also declared Wednesday as Go Orange and Highway Worker Appreciation Day.

Penelope Blackwell is a Breaking News/Accountability reporter with The Banner. Previously, she covered local government in Durham, NC, for The News & Observer. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Morgan State University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. 

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