Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lack of Funding for Transportation Puts Lives, Jobs and Quality of Life At Risk

MoDOT Issues Annual Report to State Legislature

JEFFERSON CITY – When you see the face of a bubbly, bouncing baby girl, you probably don’t think of transportation. But the Missouri Department of Transportation’s annual report to the state legislature aims to make the connection that investing in transportation is investing in the next generation’s future. The report points out that jobs, lives and our quality of life are at stake if we don’t invest in transportation.

“Great nations build and invest for succeeding generations, like our parents and grandparents did,” MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. “We must invest in transportation if we want to save lives, remain economically competitive and improve our quality of life.”

Rahn noted that the newest section of Interstate 70 in Missouri is 41 years old, though it was built to last just 20 years. Large truck traffic, which now makes up 25 percent of the travel on Interstates 70 and 44, is expected to double by 2030.

“Our highways are deteriorating with many fixes today being no more than Band-Aids,” Rahn said. “We’ve exceeded the capacity of 83 percent of our national highway system resulting in ever-growing congestion and a tremendous waste of our collective time and waning fuel supplies, as well as increasing air pollution due to idling vehicles.”

Although many needs remain, the report also highlights MoDOT’s progress in improving state highways and making them safer thanks to recent revenue redirected to road and bridge projects. Rahn cited the following statistics as proof:

· Over the last two years, Missouri has seen a 21 percent decrease in traffic deaths – the second-largest decrease in the nation.

· Seventy-eight percent of the state’s major roads are now in good condition compared to 46 percent in 2005.

· Over the last five years, MoDOT has completed $5.6 billion worth of work within seven-tenths of a percent of the estimate. The $38 million saved went toward additional highway work.

Looking to the future, the department has begun a new initiative to find out what Missourians want in their transportation system. Called A Conversation for Moving Missouri Forward, the information-seeking effort outlines five options for delivering a quality transportation system: take care of roads and bridges; do a better job of providing other ways to get around; rebuild Interstates 70 and 44; tackle needed major projects and meet regional needs.

Rahn also said his agency would once again make a push for the Missouri legislature to pass a primary safety belt law in the upcoming legislative session. Missouri's current safety belt law allows only secondary enforcement, meaning motorists can be ticketed only if the driver is first pulled over for another offense. A primary safety belt law in Missouri would save an estimated 90 lives and prevent more than 1,000 serious injuries each year.

The entire annual report, including an executive summary, can be found on MoDOT’s Web site,

Editor’s note: Taped comments on this subject from MoDOT Director Pete Rahn can be found on MoDOT’s Web site at

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Name the Train" Contest Announced for Amtrak Kansas City to St. Louis Service

JEFFERSON CITY and ST. LOUIS - A celebration of 30 years of state-supported passenger rail across Missouri, as well as major service improvements in the works, are the reasons the Missouri Department of Transportation and Amtrak® are pleased to announce a contest to give the trains a brand-new name. The "Name the Train" contest will rely on train fans everywhere to first suggest and then select the best "brand-name" for the service between St. Louis and Kansas City.

There will be three phases to the contest. First, submit your favorite name between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10. Contest entries may be submitted online at; mailed to MoDOT, Name the Train Contest, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO 65102; or hand-delivered to any MoDOT district office (locations at Contest rules are posted at the website.

Contest judges will select five names as finalists. Between, Dec. 16, 2008 and Jan. 16, 2009, voting will be conducted online or by a post card indicating your favorite finalist name. The new name will be announced by January 30, 2009.

The contest is open to anyone, but you must be a Missouri resident to win a prize. Five finalists will receive two round-trip coach tickets to any Amtrak destination in Missouri and a gift basket from one of five participating cities located on passenger rail line. The grand-prize winner will receive two round-trip sleeping car tickets to any Amtrak destination in the U.S.

Since 1979, Amtrak has provided state-supported passenger rail service between St. Louis and Kansas City. Amtrak runs two round trips daily. The trains carry tens of thousands of passengers a year with stops in St. Louis, Kirkwood, Washington, Hermann, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Lee's Summit, Independence and Kansas City.

"With major track improvements to improve on-time service planned next spring, 2009 will be exciting for rail service in our state. It will be great to start it off with a new identity for our trains," said MoDOT Railroads Administrator Rod Massman. "We're looking for something that reminds folks of Missouri's great tradition of rail service, as well as the excitement and adventure of train travel. I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with."

Missouri's cross-state passenger trains already have names, but they're little used and unknown to most people. One round-trip is called Missouri Service, formerly named the Ann Rutledge - a leftover from that train's Illinois origins. The other round-trip is called the Mules. Renaming the trains will create a single brand for the service, a practice that is common on other Amtrak corridors.

"This is a great time for Amtrak service in Missouri, with a new station opening in St. Louis, renovations at Sedalia and other upcoming rail improvements that will improve the quality of the service we provide," said Anne McGinnis, Amtrak Marketing, St. Louis. "The Name the Train contest" is a way for the citizens of the state of Missouri to participate in shaping our future."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Highway Signs to Pay Tribute to Veterans

JEFFERSON CITY – In honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the Missouri Department of Transportation is using the message boards along state interstates to recognize those who have served our country in the armed forces.

The signs – 60 in all – will rotate messages supporting veterans and reminding the public about this important day. They are located throughout the state on Interstates 70, 44, 55, 29 and 35 and on U.S. Route 60.

"This is a small gesture when compared to the sacrifices our veterans have made for us," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "The signs will send a message of support to veterans and their families and provide food for thought to the thousands of people who see them."

Rahn said the Veterans Day messages would also be a good reminder of the connection between the interstates and national defense. In 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation creating the interstate system, he announced it as "the National Defense Highway System." The system was designed to move military equipment and personnel efficiently.
When the electronic boards are not conveying information about travel times, traffic accidents, road conditions or work zones, the department uses them to provide highway safety messages.