National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW): The National Kickoff Events

Throughout most of its existence to date, National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) has featured national kickoff events to officially launch those annual spring campaigns focused on the need for safe driving in road construction areas. In 2000, the kickoff ceremony for the first NWZAW took place in Springfield, Virginia. It was specifically held near a work zone adjacent to Interstate 95. The venue for NEZAW’s national kickoff event the following year was the National Mall in Washington, D.C. That event included a display of 868 traffic cones representing the individuals killed in work zone accidents in 1999. Each cone was draped with a black ribbon.

A more recent NWZAW national kickoff event was held on April 9, 2019, at the work zone for a new version of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge being built across the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. Construction on this bridge, which is a replacement for a longtime crossing that had existed in that vicinity for nearly seven decades, began in 2018. (The above photo shows several of the people on hand for that 2019 kickoff ceremony.)

The event featured the National Work Zone Memorial, a mobile memorial that was created for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) in 2002 and has since been maintained by that organization. This memorial contains wall panels that bear the names of people who have died in work zone crashes.

The public officials speaking at the event included Brandye Hendrickson, the Federal Highway Administration’s deputy administrator (and the present-day deputy director of AASHTO); and Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation at that time and now special assistant to President Biden. “As the weather gets warmer, highway workers are heading outdoors to improve our roads and keep us moving,” Hendrickson said during her remarks. “We all need to do our part and drive carefully, so that we can help keep everyone safe wherever construction is under way.”

NWZAW’s kickoff event in 2020 was scheduled to take place in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), however, had to cancel the event due to strong concerns about COVID-19 and in accordance with CDC guidelines for dealing with that pandemic. This marks the only time so far that one of those annual events was not held. MDOT did host this year’s national kickoff ceremony, which was held at a work zone along the state trunkline highway M-59 in the Detroit metropolitan area.

Photo Credit: AASHTO Journal

For more information on NWZAW’s 2019 national kickoff event, please check out Work Zone Safety Touted at Kickoff Event in Nation’s Capital – AASHTO Journal

Additional information on the history of those events is available at Public Roads – A Decade of Safety Success , March/April 2010 – FHWA-HRT-10-003 (

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