JEFFERSON CITY – Looking back on 2008, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said none of the agency’s accomplishments tops the drop in highway deaths the state has experienced.
The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety announced in January that Missouri had reached its goal of 1,000 or fewer deaths one year early. Not since 1993 has the state had fewer than 1,000 fatalities.
“Over the last two years, Missouri has seen a 21 percent decrease in traffic deaths – the second-largest decrease in the nation,” Rahn said. “That means more people are arriving alive and are here to ring in the new year with family and friends.”
MoDOT has worked to provide smoother pavement on the busiest highways, improve striping and signs, install rumble stripes, replace and reposition warning signs on many two-lane roads and install median guard cable on the interstates. That work, along with law enforcement efforts by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and other safety partners and educational activities including Battle of the Belt competitions among high schools and work zone awareness campaigns, helped make Missouri roads safer.
Here are the rest of MoDOT’s top 10 accomplishments for 2008:
2. I-64 closing - Although St. Louisans braced themselves for the worst, the closing of a five-mile stretch of Interstate 64 in the heart of St. Louis went off with few problems. In addition, this portion of the largest construction project in MoDOT history was completed this month two weeks ahead of schedule. When the entire project is finished in 2010, St. Louis will enjoy 10 miles of new, smooth pavement; 30 safer bridges; and a new, safer high-speed interchange at Interstate 170.
3. Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program - In September, MoDOT launched the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program, which will improve 802 of Missouri's worst bridges in five years.
4. State highway conditions improve - In 2008, 78 percent of the state’s major roads were in good condition compared to 44 percent in 2003. The Reason Foundation ranked Missouri 13th in the nation for state highway system performance. The Pew Center on the States gave Missouri a B+ for infrastructure performance, which beat all but four other states and the 50-state average grade of a B-.
5. More funding for other travel modes - Missouri legislators increased funding for Missouri’s passenger rail, aviation, port and transit travel by a whopping 74 percent in the last legislative session.
6. Emergency response - In April, the Missouri House of Representatives honored MoDOT maintenance crews with a resolution thanking them for keeping Missouri highways clear and safe in the face of record snow, ice, flooding, earthquakes and even frogs.
7. Saving money - By pinching pennies, estimating construction work to the dime and encouraging innovation, MoDOT saved nearly $50 million in 2008 that was used to tackle 36 new highway projects.
8. kcICON - MoDOT broke ground in April on kcICON, a major design-build project that will improve four miles of interstate highway north of downtown Kansas City and build a new landmark, cable-stay Missouri River bridge.
9. Mississippi River Bridge - In February, the governors of Missouri and Illinois announced the two states had reached an agreement on building a new Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis.
10. Last State of Transportation Address - MoDOT Director Pete Rahn delivered the fifth and final State of Transportation Address to Missouri legislators on Feb. 6. The law authorizing the annual speech contained a five-year sunset clause, which legislators did not extend. “I believe the elimination of this speech sends a clear signal that MoDOT has regained its footing and your trust,” Rahn told legislators. “Five years ago we faced uncertainty, but today there is no doubt - we've come a long way in a short time.”