Thursday, December 31, 2009

Be Prepared

As the New Year kicks off, it never hurts to be prepared.

MoDOT is helping first responders with some preparation for 2010 by sponsoring training for those who would most likely be the first on the scene for an aircraft crash or other airport emergency.

Participants learn techniques specific to aircraft emergencies. They learn vital information about aircraft, such as where to turn off electrical equipment and the location of the aircraft fuel tanks.

The training is funded through a State Aviation Trust Fund grant administered by MoDOT and is free of charge to participants.

Additional classes are coming up for the winter months, so emergency responders in your area can be prepared.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gifts I am Thankful For

It may sound odd, but two things I am immensely grateful for this holiday season (besides my new Wii fit) are median guard cable and emergency reference markers. The day after Christmas, my family and I traveled to northwest Missouri, and on the way, we counted 40 cars either stuck in the median or off the side of the road in the ditch.

Many of those vehicles were sitting in median guard cable. Sure, they were going to have a big repair bill for their vehicles – but they were alive to make the 911 calls. My husband asked, “How many lives has that guard cable saved already?” That’s the big question. Conservative estimates say we save about 40 lives a year with the cable. That’s certainly worth celebrating.

One of the accidents we came across happened right before we got there. Without knowing if the folks in the vehicle had their cell phones handy or not, I made the call. I knew to look for the emergency reference marker on the side of the road and easily was able to tell the Patrol the exact location of the incident. Located every tenth of a mile, the markers help emergency responders find incidents more quickly, and they also help to mark the edge of the pavement for motorists. As we all know, every second can be critical when responding to traffic crashes.

They don't fit under the tree, but because of median guard cable and emergency reference markers, more people made it safely to their holiday destinations this year, and for those gifts we should all be thankful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Truck Stops Here

It never fails. When Dearest Husband and I are taking a trip, I’m always the one who calls for a rest stop. I’ve got the locations of many rest areas committed to memory.

I know that the welcome center at Conway (I-44) has a springy surface under the play equipment. (It’s fun to walk on.) The Wright City (I-70) rest area was the first place I experienced a hands-free hand wash. At Eagleville (I-35), I gape at the amazing mosaic mural.

The truckers who share Missouri’s highways commit these locations to memory, too. They have to. Drivers are limited to a specific number of hours they can work before they must pull over to rest. If they don’t, they violate federal safety rules and take a hit to the wallet, so finding a place to park and rest is an important part of the job.

Imagine what would happen if suddenly, rest areas and welcome centers closed. That’s going on in some states that have budget issues. There, drivers have to spend time looking for a spot to stop before their work time is up for the day – giving up miles of progress to stay on the good side of the law.

It’s a different story in Missouri. During the past nine years, MoDOT increased truck parking spaces 45 percent. More are on the way. When rest areas and welcome centers are built, MoDOT tries to make room for as many truck/recreational vehicle spots as possible. When rest areas and weigh stations are decommissioned, paved areas are rechristened as truck parking areas.

Drivers know that there are a lot of good, safe spots to rest in Missouri. Here they can make productive use of drive time and reduce their costs.

So it turns out that what’s good for professional drivers is good for my pocketbook…and my traveling comfort!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa in the Air

According to NORAD, Santa is already on his way. Luckily for Missourians, his flight options have expanded in the state.

The new Branson West Airport opened to air traffic on Dec. 15. The aiport, owned by the City of Branson west, includes a 5,000-foot runway capable of handling corporate aircraft, a full-length parallel taxiway, an aircraft-parking apron and T-hangar taxi lanes. The city continues to work on completing storage hangars, a maintenance and terminal facility, an automated weather station and other capabilities. A grand opening is planned next summer.

While many people think only of the airports in larger cities, Santa has lots of options in Missouri. MoDOT works with more than 120 public-use airports in the state, administering federal funding, conducting safety inspections and providing safety equipment -- sometimes reindeer food. In 2008, there were more than one million take-offs and landing in Missouri.

An important Christmas fact: More than 160,000 tons of cargo are transported by air in Missouri each year. It's top secret how much of that comes from Santa's sleigh.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Spirit of Giving

At this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas. There are presents to buy and wrap, food to be made and travel plans to adhere to.

But for some, the holidays don't have this same look or feel. That's why the news in the days surrounding Christmas is full of heart-warming stories of generosity and giving.

Missouri Department of Transportation employees are among those who have opened their hearts and wallets to those less fortunate. For the third year in a row, MoDOT contributed the greatest amount to the annual Missouri State Employees Charitable Campaign. MoDOT employees donated $217,614, making MoDOT the first state agency to surpass the $200,000 mark in the 25-year history of the campaign.

And they weren't alone. Overall, Missouri state employees broke last year's record contributions by raising more than $1.25 million for local, state and national non-profit organizations.

And more than 1,100 charities and the people they serve are better off this holiday season as a result.

The True Heart of Christmas

What do you look forward to this holiday season? My kids and I made a list: baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights, watching favorite holiday movies, visiting Santa, decorating a Gingerbread house, sledding (if possible), singing Christmas carols and reading ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ just to name a few. It’s the time with family and friends that make this time of year so special.

But what would you do if it was all taken away by a drunk driver? All it would take would be for one person to drink and drive and you or someone you love to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The holidays this year will mark the one-year anniversary of a tragic highway fatality for 19 Missouri families. In 2008, from Christmas Eve through New Year’s weekend, 19 people were killed and 41 injured in traffic crashes on Missouri roads involving an impaired driver.

Help ensure your family and friends don’t suffer the same fate, and give the gift of a safe lift. Send a Designated Driver Gift Card and serve as the sober driver to ensure your family and friends make it home safe and avoid a DWI arrest. The gift cards, distributed by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, can be sent electronically at saveMOlives.com.

And besides promising to never drive impaired, make a new year's resolution to always wear your seat belt. Over 70% of people killed in Missouri traffic crashes are unbuckled. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

So remember that the true heart of Christmas is thinking of others first. Don’t drink and drive and please wear your seat belt. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year’s, and safe travels to all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Traveler Information Map Makes Trip to Grandma's House Easier

Well the weather outside is...great actually. Unseasonably warm, kind of sunny. But if you’ve lived in Missouri for a while, you know that trend can turn on a dime.

On Christmas Day things are supposed to get soggy. Snow and other precipitation are forecast for some parts of the state. If you’re going to be on the road for the holidays, give yourself a little stocking stuffer and visit MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map before you leave your house.


Most of you who follow this blog have heard me go on and on about our award-winning, nationally recognized, super cool online road conditions map -- so this message is repetitive. But if you know anyone from out-of-state (or who’s not as web savvy as you) please tell them about it.


The Traveler Information Map gives up-to-the minute road conditions for all major routes MoDOT maintains. It gives you a good idea of what waits for you ahead and can even help you decide whether you should travel or wait a bit.


So, while your trip to Grandma’s may be easy (except for the kids fighting in the back seat), your return journey may be wet, cold and a bit slick. Make sure you know what’s in front of you by visiting www.modot.org and clicking on the big state map in the middle of the page.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Top Ten for 2009

Making lists is popular this time of year, whether it’s for holiday shopping, a year-in-review list or the things you’re pledging to do (or not do) in the new year.

Topping MoDOT's accomplishment list this year is a drop in highway fatalities for the fourth year in a row. The completion of I-64 and first-in-the-nation status aren't too shabby, either. Watch below to see MoDOT's "Top Ten" for 2009, and send your comments on what you'd like to see in 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Passion for Protection

Passion for protection

As the mother of three kids, I’ve lightly dabbled in the arena where teachers excel -- the classroom. I’ve taught Sunday school, and watched the occasional classroom full of kids while a teacher goes to lunch. I’ve also coaxed my 6-year-old son to write 10 words on a piece of paper in a single sitting. Good teachers are a gift.

Last weekend, we lost one of our chosen few in a car crash when a 29 year-old Nixa elementary school teacher was killed after being partially ejected from her vehicle; she wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Missouri’s state legislature has failed to pass a primary seat belt law. However, odd as it may seem, Nixa, a small town just south of Springfield is among 12 cities that have now passed their own city primary seat belt ordinances. In those cities drivers can be pulled over solely for not wearing their seat belt. Fines range from $10 and up and include city court costs. In Nixa, the cost of a seat belt ticket is about $75.

Willard, another southwest Missouri town passed their city ordinance on Monday, Dec. 14, just after the teacher from Nixa elementary was killed. The timing is a chilling coincidence.

Other towns in Missouri with primary seat belt ordinances include Ava, St. Louis County, Creve Coeur, Ballwin, Weston, Merriam Woods, St. John, Willow Springs, Chesterfield and Herculaneum. Many of them site crash statistics in the area as the reason they’ve taken matters into their own hands, in the absence of action on the state level. Often it is the passion of a victim’s family member or friend that helps to get things moving. Possibly something like the unnecessary death of a beloved young teacher who touched the lives of so many kids.

Laws can help protect real people, so can your seat belt. Please buckle up!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun on the Highway!

Missourians had a chance to walk, run, jump and even play cards on the New I-64 in St. Louis on Dec. 6. The video below gives you some reactions from residents and a look at the offical ribbon cutting.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hold That Message

Looks like a ban on texting while driving will be a hot topic again this legislative season. Three Missouri lawmakers have already filed texting while driving bills for the January legislative session. All three bills would make texting while driving illegal for all drivers, regardless of age.

Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do while on the road. Missouri’s current law prohibits those 21 years old and younger from texting behind the wheel.

In addition, MoDOT recently banned employees from texting while driving work vehicles. The ban also applies to personal vehicles when on-the-job.

Texting drivers spend 400% more time with their eyes off the road. A recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers face a 23 times greater risk of crash or near crash when texting than when not doing so.

Even if you’re willing to take the risk of injuring or killing yourself, you’re not the only one at risk. You could injure or kill someone else. Eighty percent of all crashes involve some sort of driver distraction.

It’s important for drivers to focus their full attention on their driving. Texting is a dangerous distraction that takes away the driver's attention from the task at hand which is driving. An all-driver texting ban is another positive step in reducing driving distractions.

What are your thoughts: do you support an all-driver texting ban?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Passing Lane for Trains

The eastbound Amtrak Missouri River Runner train whizzed by California City Hall just minutes before a dedication ceremony kicked off to officially open a new railroad side track located just west of California, Mo. The $8.1 million, 9,000-foot track enables two trains to pass.

The project was completed on time and under budget. It has helped unclog a major “bottleneck” caused by a 25-mile stretch of single track between Kansas City and Jefferson City. The new passing lane for trains allows a slower moving freight train to move off the main line so faster Amtrak trains can pass.

The side rail is estimated to reduce passenger train delays by nearly 17 percent per year. In fact, two out of the first three weeks it has been open, Amtrak trains have achieved a 100 percent on-time rate – the first time ever. Plus, ridership on the corridor is up 30 percent from 2007.

Union Pacific, Amtrak, MoDOT and the state of Missouri worked in partnership on this project to help increase capacity on the St. Louis to Kansas City corridor. Funding came from a $5 million allocation specifically for rail development from the Missouri General Assembly and a $3.1 million grant through the Federal Railroad Administration.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

100 Percent On Time!


One-hundred percent on time! That’s the exciting news MoDOT gets to report for Amtrak trains during the Thanksgiving holiday week. All four Missouri River Runner trains that carry passengers from Kansas City to St. Louis and vice versa arrived safely and on time from Tuesday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Nov. 30. Nearly every single person to whom I announced this news had the same reaction, “One-hundred percent on time? I’ve never heard that before.”

Exactly. Rodney Massman, Administrator of Railroads for MoDOT told me that in his entire career (which spans more than a decade) he has never been able to report a 100 percent on-time performance. In fact, Massman told me that in as recent as last year, the on-time performance was hovering in the 60 percent range.

So how in the world can this be? How can Amtrak trains crossing the entire show me state arrive on time and do this during the busiest travel week of the year?

The passenger-friendly answer is called the California Siding Project. MoDOT, Union Pacific, and Amtrak found the place that created the biggest bottleneck problem along the entire 275-mile rail corridor -- California, Mo. It was there that a 25-mile-long stretch of single track rested that forced delays due to trains not being able to pass one another. Well, not anymore. The California Siding Project laid down 9,000 feet, nearly two miles, of additional track next to the main corridor. This will now allow freight trains to be set aside in California so that Amtrak passenger trains can glide through without stopping.

The really neat thing about this is the California Siding Project was just finished on Nov. 20… meaning its first test was the super-busy Thanksgiving holiday week! Talk about a promising project! Its first time on the job and already it hits a 100 percent on-time performance. That's a great talking point for MoDOT Director Pete Rahn, who is scheduled to officially announce the opening of the California Siding Project on  Dec. 8 at 10 a.m.

May We Have Your Attention Please!

Winter is still around the corner, but winter weather is already upon us. As temperatures drop and precipitation falls, Missouri roads need some attention … And not just attention from MoDOT!

As a driver, you should turn your attention to state road conditions by visiting MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at:

http://maps.modot.mo.gov/travelerinformation/TravelerInformation.aspx

The map gives web visitors current road condition information so they can decide whether or not to drive on Missouri roads. Drivers can see if roads are clear, partly covered, covered or closed due to snow and ice. The map also gives info on incidents, work zones and flooding for a complete snapshot of what a highway driver can expect before they leave the comfort of their home.

Of course, the map only shows the major routes that MoDOT maintains -- and weather conditions can change in an instant -- so travelers need to also pay attention to local news and any other reports on weather-related road conditions.

In the mean time, you can “know before you go” by clicking on the big state map in the center of MoDOT’s homepage. It’s your first stop for info on Missouri highways.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Making a Difference

"Pete Rahn is one of the country's most innovative transportation officials," according to Governing magazine who named him as one of their 2009 Public Officials of the Year. Rahn's willingness to take risks and his desire to make a difference helped him become the first state transportation director to earn this national honor in the 23-year history of the award.

Watch the video below to learn more about this honor and the other 2009 recipients.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday: Give the Gift of a Safe Lift


I was brave this weekend – I woke up at 4 a.m. to tackle the Black Friday sales. It was hectic and exhausting and stressful and at times scary. The shopping malls and stores will continue to be zoos as all of us procrastinators finish (or start) our Christmas shopping. So why battle it?

We have the perfect gift for that friend who has everything except a sober ride home from the party. Send a Designated Driver Gift Card and serve as their sober driver this holiday season to ensure they make it home safe and avoid a DWI arrest.

The gift cards, distributed by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, can be sent electronically or printed at saveMOlives.com. Gift card-givers merrily offer to be a sober chauffeur to the recipient. Recipients are asked to return the favor.

This holiday season, give the gift of a safe lift. It will cost you nothing – and could save the life of your friends and loved ones. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.

Send a Designated Driver Gift Card at http://www.savemolives.com/play/drivercard.htm

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Government Doesn't Usually Act This Way"

"Government doesn't usually act this way." -- Jim Manis, Gambrill Gardens









Thanks to the quick-thinking of some MoDOT employees, a senior independent living facility in the St. Louis area will have a happier Thanksgiving.

When Gambrill Gardens' 24-passenger transit vehicle was deemed unsafe and taken off the road, the staff sent out a plea for help. Sure, there's a usual process of applying for grant assistance, but that would take time, and residents needed the transportation now.

Cue MoDOT. Employees in the multimodal operation's unit of MoDOT used some quick-thinking and offered Gambrill Gardens a way to purchase an older, but still useful, vehicle. The vehicle was part of a group of rural and small urban transit vehicles that had been replaced with federal recovery act funds.  Most of the vehicles replaced have 200,000-300,000 miles and are no longer suitable for use.  However, a few still have some useful life, and Gambrill Gardens was happy to put one of these to use.

The turnaround time from the request? Only two weeks.

"Government doesn't usually act this way," said Jim Manis with Gambrill Gardens. "It is not the new vehicle we eventually would like to get, but it really helped us get through this emergency."

Photo above (left to right): Shirley Tarwater, MoDOT multimodal operations transit employee, Jim Manis, Gambrill Gardens director of fun development, Chris Brundin, MoDOT multimodal operations transit employee, Diedre Rombach, Gambrill Gardens director of activity and Mike Cicchese, Gambrill Gardens executive director, show off the 24-passenger transit vehicle that solved Gambrill Gardens' transportation need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Working Together Improves Rail Safety in Winfield

Recently, a highway-rail crossing north of the town of Winfield, Mo. presented a quandary to the staff of MoDOT’s Railroad Section. The highway-rail crossing at Trackside Drive and the BNSF Railway Company railroad tracks had been the site of four serious accidents over the last 12 years, including three injuries and one fatality.

The warning devices at the crossing needed to be upgraded, but because the roadway there was privately owned, MoDOT was unable to spend state and federal safety funds to make an improvement.

Rail Section staff approached BNSF, the city and Victor Pipe Company, a local business and owner of the roadway, to discuss possible solutions. With the cooperation of all parties, the city agreed to annex that part of the roadway crossing the tracks, making it eligible for federal and state safety funds. In addition, MoDOT District 3’s office, Lincoln County and Victor Pipe Company agreed to assist with roadway improvements and signage.

“We appreciate the cooperation displayed by the city of Winfield, Victor Pipe Company, BNSF, Lincoln County and MoDOT’s local district to make this project a reality,” said Rod Massman, MoDOT’s railroad administrator. “It’s through these types of partnerships that we are able to achieve the maximum benefit from the finite amount of funds available to improve rail safety.”

Now the crossing has state-of-the-art flashing lights and gates warning devices, making it much safer for the public and railroad crews.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Don’t Be a Turkey This Thanksgiving

Every year around the holiday season, we send out safety information about how traffic crashes, and thus fatalities and injuries, go up during this period. And yet, every year we have more people killed and injured. So what can we say except…don’t be a turkey…drive sober and buckle up!

If you get to all of your holiday destinations this year, that’s something to be thankful for, because in 2008, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 94 people died in traffic crashes in Missouri and 5,163 were injured.

That’s why the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety is using advertising messages to urge drivers not to drink, or to call a cab or designate a driver from Nov. 23 through Dec. 20.

Even if you are not involved in a crash, consider the consequences if you are caught driving while intoxicated: you could have your license suspended, or even lose it, incur thousands of dollars in fines, and end up spending your holiday in jail.

One other sure recipe that can turn a joyful holiday into a tragedy is failure to buckle up. Regular seat belt use is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

So, please make sure the only belt left unbuckled during the holidays is the one at the dinner table, not the one in your vehicle. And, if you’re drinking, just don’t drive. We want everyone to Arrive Alive.

To learn more about impaired driving or other safety programs, visit saveMOlives.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Experience the Thrill of Riding Amtrak's Missouri River Runner

As a child, I remember the thrill of riding Amtrak® for the very first time. After my Mom and I got on board, I eventually found my way to the top of a bi-level viewing car so I could look out at the awesome panoramic view of the countryside as it flashed by. It was an exhilarating experience; one I will never forget.

You can build the same type of fond memories for your family by choosing to take Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner across the Show Me State. It provides a comfortable ride on your way to discover Missouri’s natural beauty as it passes next to rugged bluffs, alongside the mighty Missouri River, through the country and by quaint, historic communities, many of which owe their very existence to the railroad.

See where the Missouri River Runner can take you on one of MoDOT’s newest YouTube videos at http://www.morail.org/. From Kansas City to St. Louis, there are plenty of great things to see and do along Missouri’s passenger rail corridor. Get on board the Missouri River Runner and experience all of what these great communities have to offer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

MoDOT Selling Off Property in Sales Blitz


It’s an all out property-selling blitz! This real estate needs to go, go, go!

Yes, it sounds like a sales pitch, because it is. MoDOT has 23 highly marketable properties on the block and now’s the time for interested purchasers to pounce.

The MoDOT real estate blitz only lasts through the end of the week, so anyone interested needs to go to www.modot.org/realtyforsale, pronto.

The blitz is an effort to sell as many of these properties in as short a period of time as possible. MoDOT wants this land in the hands of the right owners who will put it to good use. Whether you have land next to these areas, or you just want to create a new dog park, you have the chance to submit a bid or a sealed bid during the auction.

Who knows what you could get it for? What’s even better is that all the money generated from these sales goes back into building roads. It’s a win for everyone.

For more info, go to www.modot.org/realtyforsale … and do it now!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feast and Famine

Roberta Broeker is MoDOT's chief financial officer. Her post today clarifies MoDOT's current state of funding and why there are challenges ahead.

This year has been both feast and famine in federal transportation funding. In February, the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. At a national level, it’s a massive bill totaling $787 billion dollars. Of that, $48 billion was allocated to transportation. When you crank through the math, $788 million of additional transportation dollars came to Missouri. That was broken up into $525 million to the Commission to administer (about two-thirds of the federal funds we receive in an average year); $93 million sub-allocated to the Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield metropolitan planning organizations; $19 million for transportation enhancement projects, the bulk of which we divvied up around the state and let our local planning partners pick the projects; and $151 million to other transportation modes.

We worked fast and furious to select projects and get the federal funds obligated, because the time lines imposed by the bill were short AND because the goal was getting people back to work.

Fast-forward to September 30 and the end of SAFETEA-LU, the multiyear bill that apportioned and controlled federal transportation spending across the nation. Built into SAFETEA-LU like a ticking time bomb was an $8.7 billion rescission of federal funds. What does that mean? The bill starts out telling states how much money is apportioned to them over the life of the bill, but then also the increments in which we’re allowed to “obligate” it to specific projects. It’s a way of managing the checkbook at the federal level, preventing states from spending all their money in the early years of the bill.

There was widespread speculation that before September 30, 2009 arrived, Congress would do away with the rescission, and let states have that money to build projects. Ultimately, that didn’t happen. For Missouri, that meant $202 million of potential projects were wiped off the books. We didn’t have to cancel any projects because we were allowed to parcel the rescission among the programs where there was still a difference between the amount originally apportioned to Missouri and the amount we’d already obligated to specific projects.

But in that unobligated difference were a world of possibilities. As I’ve read newspaper stories from around the state, local officials have commented on bridges that will be delayed for a year or more, and the need to regroup and figure out how to get planned projects off paper and make them reality.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the “continuing resolutions” Congress has passed to keep the federal program operating after SAFETEA-LU’s expiration have made finances even tighter. Continuing resolutions aren’t anything new. After the previous federal bill expired in September 2003, we had twelve continuing resolutions before SAFETEA-LU passed in August 2005. But they gave states slightly more money than in the expired bill. Due to the fiscal year 2009 rescissions, the two continuing resolutions we’ve had so far (one for the month of October, and a second one that runs through December 18) have given us federal funds not at the SAFETEA-LU level, but at that amount less rescinded amounts. So when you compare federal funds available for the first 75 days of this federal fiscal year to what we expected (level funding from last year), MoDOT and local planning partners have $57 million less available to obligate than we planned. That’s a difference of 30 percent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Missouri Supports Our Veterans - Drive Safely

In honor of Veterans Day today, the electronic message boards along state interstates carry messages recognizing those who have served our country in the armed forces.

The signs, located throughout the state on Interstates 70, 44, 55, 29 and 35 and on U.S. Route 60, include a message that says, "Missouri Supports Our Veterans - Drive Safely."

"We want people to take a minute to think about the sacrifices our veterans have made for us," said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn.

When the electronic boards are not conveying information about travel times, traffic accidents, road conditions or work zones, MoDOT uses them to provide highway safety messages.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taylor Swift Tackles Bad Driving Habits

Did anyone catch Saturday Night Light over the weekend hosted by Taylor Swift? If you did, you might have seen the hilarious skit for TRAAAPD or Teenagers Raising Awareness About Awful Parent Drivers. So much attention has been paid lately to texting while driving that we forget about some of the other bad driving habits that could create an unsafe situation. How many of you are guilty of some of these behaviors?

Driving While Trying to Balance Hot Coffee
Driving While Trying to Get Something Out of Your Purse
Driving While Racing to Nordstrom for a Sweater Sale
Driving While Trying to Give the “Birds and the Bees” Talk
Driving While Arguing With the GPS
Driving While Revealing Family Secrets
Driving While Trying to Find a Cell Phone You Dropped
Driving While Having a Sarcastic Conversation with the Car in Front of You
Driving While Singing Along to a Song You Don’t Know the Lyrics With

I can honestly say I’m guilty of at least five (but I’m not telling you which ones).

While the skit was hilarious, the dangerous driving situations were real. Next time you get behind the wheel remember your safety and the safety of others. Focus on your driving. That phone call or text message can wait. That sweater will still be there when you get to Nordstrom. And the GPS and the car in front of you – they aren’t listening anyway.

Watch the video here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Working Like There's Snow Tomorrow


This weekend the temperatures are supposed to hit 75 in mid-Missouri, which makes me think of an end-of-season barbecue, mowing the lawn, taking a long walk outside and of course snow. Snow? Really? I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but as all Missourians know, the weather in our state can be quite unpredictable, so MoDOT crews prepare all equipment and supplies by Nov. 1 for the first snowfall.
And while we all hope the bad weather holds off for a while, we must prepare or suffer dire consequences. In 2008, 30 people were killed, 322 seriously injured and 2,536 received minor injuries in traffic crashes when there was snow, ice or slush on the roadway. Driving too fast for conditions and inattention were the top contributing factors in traffic crashes during the winter months last year.
And while our crews are out on the roads at all hours of the day, seven days a week when necessary to keep our roads safe, it is also the motorist’s job to drive cautiously, pay extra attention to signs and drive defensively.
MoDOT provides a traveler information map at www.modot.org/ with current road conditions to help drivers determine when it’s safe to travel. The map shows which roads are covered, partly covered, and clear.
For information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips and a diagram on driveway clearing techniques, visit www.modot.org/ or call 888-ASK MODOT. Recorded road-condition information is available at (800) 222-6400.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Elevator Racing

Race fans – if you like thrilling, high-stakes adventure, keep an eye on Missouri row crop farmers this month.

We’ve finally caught a break in the weather and in some areas, fields are starting to dry enough that harvest can begin. October’s monsoons kept combines and other machinery out of fields so, as a state, we’re waaaay behind. As my uncle used to say, “Those beans won’t pick themselves!”

Picking and harvesting is one thing. Farmers have to get food from the field to storage. That’s where MoDOT comes in. At the request of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, MoDOT issued emergency declarations that ease certain state transportation regulations through Nov. 30. While the declarations are in effect, farmers and other motor carriers are allowed to load their trucks up to 10 percent heavier than the legal licensed weight when transporting row crop commodities from the farm to a storage facility and from one storage facility to another. Those responding to the emergency may also operate their vehicles beyond the normal hours-of-service limits when hauling to storage facilities and returning the empty truck to the farm.

These heavier loads are not allowed on Missouri interstates, nor are they allowed on any bridge with a weight restriction lower than the gross weight of the loaded vehicle. When traveling over bridges, the drivers must limit their speed to 45 mph and drive down the center of two lanes.

Soooooo, if you see a truck running down the middle of a bridge, they’re not in distress or practicing their NASCAR blocking moves. They’re likely full of corn or beans and following the requirements of the declaration – unless they’ve painted a number on the door of their cab…

(A copy of Emergency Declaration 09-12 must be carried in each commercial motor vehicle that operates in response to the relief effort. Farmers must carry either 09-12 or 09-11. Both are posted on MoDOT Motor Carrier Services' Web site, www.modot.org/mcs.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trash Man

Have you seen this superhero alongside the road picking up trash? It’s Trash Man – better known as Cosmo from the Cosmo & JC show on Y107. He’s the best kind of super hero – the kind that keeps our roadsides cleaner and more attractive.

Trash Man picked up trash this morning along Highway 63 north of the AC/Grindstone exit. His “trashy” superhero costume consisted of a cape, suit and mask all made from trash bags.

I provided him with trash bags, a safety vest, gloves and a grabber and we went to work. In less than a half hour, we had already filled up a yellow trash bag. Some of the things we found: floss, lip gloss, a rubber glove and wallpaper along with tons of fast food trash, cigarette butts and paper.

Trash Man isn’t the only superhero out there picking up trash. MoDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program currently has 4,140 adopter groups that clean up 5,872 miles of highway. Adopters perform about $1 million a year in litter cleanup and beautification efforts. The stretch of highway we picked up today was adopted by Evan Scholars at the University of Missouri.

To find out more about Adopt-a-Highway, call our toll free number at 888-ASK MODOT (275-6636) and ask for the Adopt-A-Highway coordinator or email us at aah@modot.mo.gov. You can also find out more information at www.nomoretrash.org.

Thanks to Y107’s Trash Man for doing his part to keep 63 litter-free. Check out the video of Trash Man below or see the photos at http://y107.com/cosmo-as-trash-man/#more-2770.

MoDOT Celebrates a Safe & Sound Centennial!

One hundred and counting! That’s the number of bridges the Missouri Department of Transportation has now fixed as a part of its commitment under the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program – an initiative to fix 802 of the state’s worst bridges in five years.


This morning Gov. Jay Nixon joined MoDOT Director Pete Rahn, members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and local officials to celebrate the completion of a redeck project on the Route E bridge in Platte County over the Platte River. It was the 100th bridge completed since April when it reopened on October 24.


MoDOT and its contractor partners are working so fast on these projects that already seven more have been completed! There are another 13 under construction that will be completed before the end of the year. Since the first bridge was completed on April 23, 107 bridges have been improved in 194 days.


But if you think opening a bridge about every two days is impressive, wait until next year! In 2010, close to 250 bridges will be constructed. And almost 200 of those will be completely new bridges, built under the Design-Build portion of the Safe & Sound program by KTU Constructors.


Construction schedules are being completed, and MoDOT will be conducting community briefings through the winter months to provide construction and detour information while these bridges are closed.


The contract with KTU Constructors requires that the average closure be no more than 45 days. That's twice as fast as the normal 90 days it takes to build a new bridge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thank you, Missouri!















Missourians created jobs and saved lives when they approved Amendment 3 in November 2004. The constitutional change ended the diversion of some highway user fees to certain state agencies and redirected them to road and bridge projects.

We reached a milestone on Oct. 28 when we sold the last of the Amendment 3 bonds. This helped us leverage the additional funding and deliver 2,200 miles of smoother highways, 55 projects that were years down the road and 97 brand new projects that before were only a gleam in our eye. As a result, 83 percent of our major roads are in good condition today and traffic fatalities have decreased 24 percent since 2005.

Missouri voters deserve a big pat on the back and our thanks for investing in their highway system.

A Blast in Miami

If you talk about having a blast in Miami, chances are your audience is assuming you spent some time cruising South Beach.

Not the case for those who watched the first phase of demolition on the Miami River bridge in Missouri yesterday. Those Chariton county residents watched the excitement closer to home.

Dorothy Clements, a Miami resident, was there to watch the bridge dedication in 1939 and also there yesterday to watch the demolition. View the video below to hear her thoughts.

When the new structure is complete next fall, only the piers will remain from the original structure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making a Difference

Jim Feeney turned extra steps into extra miles last week, walking to raise awareness about work zone safety for his fellow MoDOT co-workers.

Feeney, a maintenance crew leader in the St. Louis area, walked 87.2 miles along the Katy Trail from Weldon Spring to Jefferson City to pay tribute to fellow workers who have been killed in the line of duty and to encourage support for a memorial honoring fallen MoDOT employees.

Feeney's wife, Theo, walked with him and was not surprised at all when her husband proposed the idea.

"That's Jim," said Theo. "This is normal because he likes to make a difference."



Friday, October 23, 2009

Halloween Hints


Halloween is a bittersweet time for me. My kids are too old to trick-or-treat, and I’m too old to celebrate, but I still have great memories of this hallowed tradition. I can recall my one-year-old daughter in her first costume - a pumpkin outfit - and watching the neighbor kids grow bigger and taller each year they rang our doorbell. I can think of my son announcing he was too big to hold hands and could go to the door by himself to get his treats. Mostly, I remember breathing a sigh of relief when the evening was over and everyone was home safe and sound.

That’s because while Halloween is a fun fall tradition, it’s also one of the deadliest nights of the year – largely due to impaired driving. This year, Halloween falls on a Saturday, making it an even bigger occasion to party. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58 percent of all highway fatalities last Halloween involved an impaired driver. In Missouri, eight people were killed and 51 seriously injured in traffic crashes during last year’s Halloween weekend. Of the eight people killed, 50 percent involved an impaired driver and 57 percent were unbuckled.

So, while I know I’m going to sound like a preachy old mom, please keep these tips in mind if you’re thinking about celebrating this Halloween:
· Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
· Before drinking, designate a sober driver and give that person your keys.
· If you’re impaired, take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
· If you suspect a drunk driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement.
· Always buckle up. It’s your best defense in a crash.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MoDOT Receives Two Governor’s Quality and Productivity Awards

Gov. Jay Nixon’s office gave MoDOT a big pat on the back last week. The department was honored with two Governor’s Awards for Quality and Productivity in the areas of customer service and technology. These annual awards go to state departments that demonstrate achievement in customer service, efficiency, innovation, process improvement or technology in government.

The customer service award recognized the popular online Traveler Information Map, which shows road conditions, work zones, incidents and flooding information. More than 1.5 million people have turned to map for travel information since it was launched.

The second award honored MoDOT’s revolutionary online method for increasing public participation on projects. With help from HNT!B, a transportation contractor, MoDOT launched the first virtual public meeting. These online meetings allow people to comment on plans and projects from the comfort of their own home and at the time that suits them best. As result, public comments on projects increased tenfold.

MoDOT is honored to receive these awards. Now we just have to figure out how to top them for next year!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Observations from the Field

I’ve been watching you – and what I see is good!


Hubby and I were on the road again – 465 rainy Missouri miles on Tuesday alone. That gave me a lot of time to watch how car, truck and commercial truck drivers behave.

I saw that most Missourians are safe travelers. Almost 8 out of 10 buckle up – that’s the best defense we’ve got against serious injury or death if a crash were to happen. And most people share the road quite nicely.

Because vehicles on our highways range from bicycles to specially permitted high and wide load commercial trucks, safe travel is a matter of mutual respect. It appears that in at least one safety measure, Missourians are doing a great job: between 2006 and 2008, the number of commercial motor vehicle crashes that resulted in fatalities fell 19 percent.

I do my best to concentrate on driving so everyone can Arrive Alive, but I know I slip up from time to time. The last thing I want to do is distract another driver from the driving task, so I like the reminders the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety put out this week for Operation Safe Driver Week, Oct. 18-24, 2009. During the week, law enforcement agencies turn a keen eye toward the driving behavior of passenger cars and commercial trucks.

For passenger vehicle drivers, several tips can improve your safety when driving near commercial trucks or buses:
· Focus on driving. Texting, phone calls, eating and other distractions take your attention away from safe operation of your vehicle.
· After passing a truck, wait until you can see both of its headlights in your rearview mirror before pulling into the same lane.
· Keep a safety cushion around trucks. Can you see the truck’s side mirrors? If not, the driver cannot see you. Leave at least a 20-car-length gap when driving behind a truck.
· Never linger alongside a truck and risk “disappearing” from their vision due to blind spots.
· Obey speed limits and traffic signs.

It is also important for truck drivers to remember to:
· Pre-inspect the condition of your vehicle before travel and make sure your load is secure.
· Maximize the vision around your truck with properly adjusted mirrors; be sure mirrors are properly set and clean.
· Focus on driving, not distractions.Obey speed limits and traffic signs. Excessive speed reduces your ability to avoid a crash, extends your vehicle’s stopping distance, and increases the severity of a crash when it occurs.



As impressed as I am with Missourians' driving, I'm tired! I think we'll stick close to home this weekend...but there are some really great fall festivals and Oktoberfests and...

Glasgow Bridge Complete!

Today, Glasgow residents and those in surrounding communities will celebrate having their bridge again!
Only a year ago, the Glasgow Bridge in north central Missouri was one of the worst major river bridges in the state.

An innovative partial replacement solution has since improved the bridge, and a ceremony kicks off this afternoon where the residents celebrate!

The existing deck and steelwork was removed from the supporting piers, then replaced with a plate girder bridge to produce a new driving surface, extending the life of this important bridge for up to 50 years. Check out more photos and details!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

For Sale!

One thing I learned this summer - the selling of a home and purchase of another home is a fascinating (and exhausting!) process.

I really still don't know how all of the details came together or the pieces fell in place, but the end result is a home that better fits the needs of my family. A happy ending.



MoDOT is selling off property it no longer needs, and an upcoming blitz of activity is planned to sell 23 highly marketable parcels of land and put the money straight into needed road and bridge projects.

The blitz runs the week of Nov. 16-20. Thinking of getting in the market for development or wanting a buffer around land you already own? Check out our Realty to Roads page to see what might fit your needs.

You just might find your own happy ending in the real estate world. And with the money going to needed projects around Missouri, everyone in the state can do the same.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Great Return!

Missouri's ports are a great return on investment.

MoDOT's Waterway Section is administering $16 million in grant funding for 20 different projects at public ports throughout Missouri. Everything from a rail spur, truck scale, access roads, dock repairs, mooring dolphins, storage, and utility extension is included.

These investments are generating economic activity in the private sector. The best example is at the New Madrid County Port Authority, where MoDOT provided $3 million in state and federal grants to improve truck access, bring in a rail spur, and increase storage capacity. These investments, along with working with port staff, helped land two new business that are right now investing more than $50 million in private investment in this port.

Even in this challenging economic climate, Missouri ports have increased tonnage handled, jobs created, and private investment. Plus, we all get the environmental benefits offered by waterway transportation, where one barge holds as much as 15 rail cars and 60 trucks.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MoDOT Through the Looking Glass

MoDOT has a bunch of good-lookin’ employees. Who wouldn’t want to catch a peek of ‘em in the truck mirrors?

That’s what I thought after learning that MoDOT’s Northeast District added bright orange stickers to the back of bright yellow dump trucks. The message on the stickers is familiar to those who drive around 18-wheel trucks: If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.

It turns out that the district’s safety and health committee recommended the message. Concern about incidents when dump truck drivers backed into vehicles behind them – vehicles the dump truck driver could not see – prompted the team’s action. Since commercial trucks have the same blind spot, the team thought, we could try using one of their safety tactics.

It will be a few months – April 2010, to be exact – before the pilot program wraps up, but the district already notes a decrease in the number of backing incidents. It’s possible the stickers will spread statewide.

Big thanks to the big trucks for inspiring an effective, inexpensive safety tool.

And keep those glances in the mirror quick. MoDOT folks will try to temper our beauty so we’re not too distracting!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why Isn't It Clicking with Missourians?

I buckle up every single time I get in a vehicle, and everyone riding with me does as well. But unfortunately according to our latest statewide survey results - nearly one in four Missouri motorists still don’t buckle up. With 77% seat belt use, Missouri is seven percent less than the national average of 84 percent. The bottom line of these statistics means that people who otherwise would probably be arriving home safely are dying on our roads.

In 2008, 489 people out of the 960 killed in Missouri traffic crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. If you do the math, that’s more than half. It’s common sense to wear one – and yet some people still don’t.

So why aren't we measuring up to other states? We don't have a primary seat belt law is one reason. Research from other states shows that passing a primary seat belt law raises the usage rate and reduces fatalities and injuries. By law, we all have to wear our seat belt anyway, but making it a primary law allows our law enforcement to actually enforce it. It’s a simple change that costs us nothing but could gain us everything.

Some groups in our state are at even more risk from lower seat belt usage – teens only buckle up 62% of the time and motorists in the 10-county area near Joplin and Springfield only buckle up 66% of the time. We’re doing what we can to educate these folks with the Get Your Buckle On campaign that targets teens and tries to get more of them to buckle up, while a new Click It or Ticket campaign in the southwest area has local law enforcement officers cracking down on motorists who aren’t wearing seat belts.

Until we get a primary seat belt law, we’ll have to do our best to educate everybody about the importance of buckling up. Please help us. Visit saveMOlives and send your friends a postcard (www.savemolives.com/play/postcard.htm) reminding them to buckle up. For more information, visit http://www.savemolives.com/. Buckle Up and Arrive Alive!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gnome says, "Get Your Buckle On."

A gnome costume inspired 19-year-old Cole Hieronymus's winning Get Your Buckle On video. The video contest, sponsored by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, encouraged people to submit seat belt videos to www.getyourbuckleon.com to encourage teens to buckle up.

"We wanted to jolt our peers' mind to wake up out of zombie routine every day and actually put their seat belt on," said Hieronymus of St. Louis.

The winning video will be promoted during the October teen seat belt campaign running Oct. 5-25. The second round of the teen seat belt video competition will begin Oct. 1. The video contest will be featured in the October advertising campaign sponsored by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.

Watch the video below.

video

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MoDOT’s E update service offers job announcements, flood updates, work zone info and more

Have you subscribed to MoDOT’s free “E-update” service yet? If not, you’re missing out on a lot of good information from your department of transportation.

E-update’s lets you get info on work zones, road closures, flooding, public meetings, statewide news, district news, even job announcements.

You can sign up for the e-mail service at www.modot.org/eupdate. The newest E-update feature is our job announcement service. At the bottom of the subscription page is a section called “Career Opportunities” organized by district. It allows you to pick the geographic areas where you’re interested in finding employment. Once you’re signed up, you will receive an e-mail every time a job opens up in the districts you selected.

While you’re in there, sign up to get other information for your area. If you find out E updates aren’t for you, just change your subscription or unsubscribe entirely.

You can also visit our Twitter pages at http://www.modot.org/Twitter and get the latest tweets on job announcements and other MoDOT news.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Go TIGER!

No, we're not using this post to cheer for the Missouri Tigers, although I'll have to admit that their 3-0 start has been impressive. Hope the Nevada game is not an ambush in the desert!

This entry is about MoDOT's submission last week of an application for a TIGER Discretionary Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In this case, TIGER stands for "Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery" and it is a special program that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The program was announced in the spring, giving states and local entities the opportunity to compete for $1.5 billion in stimulus funds to enable transportation projects that otherwise were not possible. Projects were to range from $20 million to $300 million in cost and able to be built by February of 2012. No state could receive more than $300 million total.

MoDOT's I-70 team worked hard all summer to develop its application to build up to 30 miles of truck-only lanes on Interstate 70 in Saline and Cooper Counties. The application was for $200 million. MoDOT would add $40 million to that for a $240 million project. If selected, this project would revolutionize interstate corridors that have heavy freight movements, separating cars from long-haul semis. It would demonstrate just how the concept would improve safety, reduce congestion and allow for efficiencies in freight flows.

The MoDOT application and all of its supporting information can be found at www.modot.mo.gov/arra/tiger/

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has indicated that projects will be selected by January 15, 2010. In the meantime, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that this innovative project is chosen, and hoping that Coach Gary Pinkel's Tigers keep up their winning ways.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lee's Summit Man Wins GPS System

One Missouri man took the time to learn more about work zone safety in Missouri and was rewarded with a brand new Garmin nuvi 750 GPS system.

Lee's Summit resident, Buck Sommerkamp, entered to win the GPS while visiting the MoDOT Web site and learning how to Arrive Alive while traveling in Missouri work zones. Some of the tips included slow down, drive sober, follow the signs and always buckle up.

“I’ve been buckling up since driver’s ed in high school,” Sommerkamp said. “We couldn’t turn the key until our seat belts were buckled, and that’s something I’ve taught both my boys.”

The contest was part of the annual work zone safety campaign sponsored by MoDOT that ran April through September. The campaign utilized online advertising to drive Missourians to http://www.modot.org/ where they could find a current listing of work zones and work zone safety tips. They could also enter to win baseball tickets and the free GPS.

More than 3,000 entries were received during the campaign. From April to July, two names were randomly selected each week for free Cardinals or Royals tickets. A grand-prize winner was randomly drawn for the GPS system. The baseball tickets were donated by TrueMedia in Columbia; the GPS system was donated by Garmin International.

In 2008, 12 people were killed in work zones, an increase from 2007 when five people were killed. Three MoDOT employees lost their lives on the job during 2008. Speed, inattention and tailgating are cited as the cause of most crashes in areas where roadwork is under way.


The GPS system will help Sommerkamp travel safely through work zones in the future.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Join the Battle of the Belt Challenge

Calling all Missouri high school students to compete in the 2009 Battle of the Belt Challenge for an opportunity to win cash and prizes for your school.

The Battle of the Belt is a competition between Missouri high schools to increase seat belt use among students. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, Missouri Emergency Nurses Association and American Family Insurance sponsor the program.

During the competition, teens participate in an observational safety belt survey conducted before and after an education blitz to determine the change in seat belt use among teens. Prizes are awarded to schools for having the highest seat belt use statewide and locally. Prizes are also awarded for those schools showing the most improved seat belt use.

It’s not too late to sign up. It’s easy to do and teaches a life-saving message. A Participation Agreement Form must be completed by Oct. 2, 2009. Visit www.savemoyouth.com for more information.

Check out this student-produced video from the competition last year.

video

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Bags

With holidays not so far away, the mention of big bags makes me think of the shopping that I'll have to get done pretty soon.

But these bags are far more useful. MoDOT has purchased bags -- really, really BIG bags -- in order to hold off floodwaters in the state. They can help alot more people than just those on my gift list.

Big Bags are just that -- large sand bags that unfold like an accordion to create a 15-foot long by 3-foot high by 3-foot wide storage compartment for sand. One system of Big Bags takes the place of 500 regular sand bags.

“They’ll be used the next time floodwaters threaten to rise over our major roads,” said Jim Carney, state maintenance engineer. “A new product like this can help us save time and protect lives during a crisis.”

The Big Bags work much like Legos toys; a chain of dumpster-sized bags can be stacked, attached, filled with sand and built upon to create massive floodwalls quickly and easily. The bags are made of tightly woven polypropylene with wooden frames that are screwed together. Each system weighs only 50 pounds when empty, but when deployed they are filled with 2,800-3,500 pounds of sand, depending on the moisture content.

It takes just a few minutes to fill the bags with the help of a spreader box on dump trucks. Creating a traditional sand bag wall could take several hours.

Flood waters, watch out.






Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Show Us Your Seat Belt Dance

More than 250 seat belt videos have been posted online in the first round of the Get Your Buckle On video competition which ended Aug. 31.

Many of the videos were filmed in the Highway Gardens Exhibit Hall at this year’s Missouri’s State Fair. Teens, young children and adults all had a blast dancing to the original song, “Get Your Buckle On.”

The winner of the first-round contest will be announced by Oct. 1 as we kick off Get Your Buckle On – Round 2.

Visit www.getyourbuckleon.com/ to check out the videos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

They Weevil and They Wobble

The weevils have a job to do in Missouri, and they're working hard to earn their keep.

Over the last couple of years, MoDOT has teamed up with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the University of Missouri-Extension, working towards the best solution for an increase in spotted knapweed along roadsides. Don't let the pretty purple flowers fool you -- left unchecked, the knapweed takes over, creating an herbicide that kills plants around it. Overall, it's not the friendliest of neighbors.

Enter the weevil. Used in other parts of the country for decades and known to focus only on knapweed, these little guys have been put to work. Over the summer, they were released in 75 sites around the state, mostly in southern Missouri.

Rand Swanigan, roadside management specialist, finds it a very positive way to go.

"It's not a cure-all, but it allows mother nature to help us control this weed in an environmentally friendly way," said Swanigan.

That, and the weevils get a free lunch.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Who do you love?

If you’re a three-year old girl, you probably love Dora the Explorer; five-year old boys covet any Star Wars character with a helmet and a laser weapon. They would probably also put mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and maybe a sibling on the list -- oh, and let’s not forget ICE CREAM.

If you are a parent like me, your love list would first and foremost include your kids. You’d likely throw yourself in front of a speeding locomotive to keep them safe. But, no one is asking you to do that. In fact, to keep your kids safe in the car, the solution is much less dramatic.

Just buckle them in to the appropriate safety seat (and make sure it’s installed correctly) for their age, size and weight. All the details can be found at www.savemolives.com/. There’s a great video there too.

Sept. 12 is National Seat Check Saturday and launches Child Passenger Safety Week from September 12-19. The week includes education on proper safety seat installation and use as well as increased law enforcement cracking down on Missouri's child safety seat law violators. A list of car seat inspection stations and locations for the car seat checkups can be found at www.savemolives.com.

Car crashes are the number one killer of children. During the last three years in Missouri, 56 children were killed and 437 more suffered disabling injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, three out of four child safety seats are improperly installed. Don’t let your child be a statistic.

Spread the love, BUCKLE UP!!
video

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Many Vehicles Drive Your Route Every Day? We Can Tell You!

Do you want to find out if traffic on your route has been climbing over the years? Are you thinking about starting a business near a state highway and want to know how many people will be driving by? Well, MoDOT can help you.

One of the little known offerings of MoDOT’s web site is our Traffic Volume Maps page. This page offers a collection of PDF maps that shows the Average Daily Traffic (“ADT” in MoDOT lingo) for hundreds of state maintained routes and interchanges. There is a statewide map that shows Missouri as a whole, and 10 regional maps so you can get a more refined view of the numbers. Of course, only state routes are covered, and we don’t show municipal traffic, but these maps are great tools for seeing how many people share your route on an average day. You can also go back to 2000 to see how traffic numbers have changed over the years.

The maps are updated every year and are valuable resources for safety officials, the business community, motor carriers or someone just trying to win an argument about traffic with their neighbor.

Click on the hot link above or go to www.modot.org/safety/trafficvolumemaps.htm to check out this great resource.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Smooth Ride

What is MoDOT's role in the 2009 Tour of Missouri? This week's MoDOT Minute explains how we help the race run smoothly while minimizing the impact of road closures for drivers.

Check the MoDOT Minute each week for 60 seconds of your latest transportation headlines in Missouri.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Local Voice

The Recovery Act funding has given MoDOT the opportunity to demonstrate that funding for transportation projects can and does provide a jumpstart to economic development. Watch this video to hear from local Missouri voice Keith Miller why the funding has helped Missouri, and how the benefits extend beyond the projects themselves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Laboring for a Safe Holiday

Like many other Missourians this weekend, my family and I will be traveling for Labor Day. For me, it’s all about the cake, since I was born on Labor Day. But, whatever the reason or destination involved, one thing we should all remember is to pay attention in work zones.

Many people get annoyed with work zones and don’t follow the signs, which can mean catastrophic results for all involved. Between 2004 and 2008, 79 people were killed in work zones. Since 2000, 15 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty. Hitting and injuring or killing a highway worker in Missouri could result in a fine up to $10,000 and loss of your license for a year.

This year alone, several MoDOT crews were involved in crashes and narrowly escaped injuries while improving Missouri roads. Inattention, impairment, speeding, following too closely and texting while driving are all suspected as the causes of the crashes. (And if you’re under 21, texting while driving is against the law now anyway.)

You can learn more about work zone safety at modot.org or call 888-ASK-MODOT. While visiting our Web site, you can enter to win a Garmin GPS system (it doesn't even have to be your birthday). The drawing will be held Sept. 10th, so there’s only about a week left to enter!

Please be courteous as you travel through work zones this weekend and help make sure everyone will Arrive Alive. Remember to buckle up, watch for signs, slow down and stay alert. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tomorrow's Engineers


Twenty-nine students participated in the 2009 TRAC Summer Conference this summer. TRAC stands for Transportation and Civil Engineering Program, and offers hand-on experience to high school students who may become our future engineers.

One of the activities involved working at a traffic signal to take a traffic count. Students also received an overview of MoDOT and its divisions, and had a presentation regarding the No Zone and how they can stay safe around large trucks. (See the blog post from Aug. 21, "Disappearing Dump Trucks", for an eye-opening video of what the students learned)

Elizabeth Reed, with MoDOT's Equal Employement and Opportunity division, sees TRAC as a valuable opportunity to reach out to students.

"They were given an opportunity to learn engineering concepts and apply them to real-world situations," said Reed. "Hopefully, it will encourage them to become tomorrow's engineers."


Friday, August 28, 2009

Just Like Riding a Bike

I’m not much of a bike rider. As a kid, I lived on my bicycle, but not anything that I’ve kept up with as I’ve gotten older – a bit lazy when it comes to pedaling up hills! So when I was assigned as MoDOT’s project manager for the Tour of Missouri, I was looking forward to learning a lot about a subject that was definitely new to me.

Now, in our third year of the Tour of Missouri, I’m hooked! After watching these professional athletes climb the hills, handle the curves and attack Missouri’s mountains (we really do have some out there!), they have my complete respect and admiration.

When you stand along the race route and watch the cyclists, it’s amazing what is required of them in this sport – strength, endurance, concentration, teamwork. The race happens to be the largest professional sporting event in the state of Missouri, and guess what, it’s free!

Sept. 7 – beginning in St. Louis, through Sept. 13 – ending in Kansas City, cyclists from more than 20 countries will be traversing our state at about 30 miles per hour as they move from east to west. It’s a well-oiled production and a unique opportunity as millions of eyes and ears watch the event throughout the world.

Up for being outdoors in the beautiful September sunshine? Check it out! More information about specific routes and times is available on the MoDOT Web site, along with a link to the Tour of Missouri site. And thanks to MoDOT’s primary responsibility, which is to help plan a safe route for participants and onlookers and then to help motorists travel safety and efficiently during the race, this should be another successful event for Missouri.

And I should clarify – “I’m hooked” as in hooked on watching and enjoying a new sport, not as in riding my bike again, but that could happen – never say never!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Welcome Commissioner Miller

Stephen R. Miller of Kansas City was sworn in this week as Missouri's newest Highways and Transportation Commissioner by Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price, Jr.

He was appointed earlier this month by Governor Jay Nixon.

"Mr. Miller's impressive background and considerable knowledge of transportation issues make him a valuable addition to the commission," said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn. "I look forward to working closely with him to ensure that Missouri's transportation system continues to improve and to tackle the significant challenges we will face in the very near future."

Miller is an attorney with the law firm of Miller Schirger and has more than 25 years experience in construction law. He fills the vacancy left by the resignation of Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City and will complete his term, which runs through March 1, 2011.

Welcome Commissioner Miller!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

DNT TXT & DRV – I WNT 2 ARV ALV

I’m not innocent when it comes to texting and driving. I’ve found myself driving 70 miles per hour on Route 63 when my text alert buzzes. Not one to ignore my phone, I reach over, read it, sometimes even respond.

I’ve read the horror stories and watched this sad (and a little too graphic) PSA and recognize the dangers of texting while driving, but it’s still an incredibly hard habit to break.

And my phone plan limits me to 250 text messages a month.

Last week I went with my 18-year-old sister-in-law to renew her cell phone plan. They looked up her text message usage and she puts mine to shame. She sends an average of 3,000 text messages per month – 100 text messages per day. I’m sure a fair share of that is done while driving, putting herself and others at risk.

A new law goes into effect this week that bans Missouri drivers 21 years of age or younger from sending, reading, or writing an electronic message while driving.
Initially when the law was passed, I questioned: why just youth? Why not everybody? Am I, at age 25, any less of a risk than someone under 22? Maybe not. But if you look at my texting usage compared to that of my sister-in-law’s you see the importance of banning her and other youth from texting while they are still novice drivers.

Eventually I hope the ban follows suit for the rest of us. With a fine of $200 if caught, I think I would find a way to ignore that pesky little text message – at least until I’m safely off the road.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sweet Directions

While walking around town today, a car pulled up to the curb with three women inside looking for Central Dairy, a rather famous mid-Missouri ice cream stop. I could never stand between anyone and their Extreme Chocolate Moose Tracks, so I tried to make sure my directions were clear.

The importance of good direction cannot be understated. Without it, a good deal of time can be wasted looking for the right way to go. Without it, these women may have been forced to settle for a non-dairy soft-serve cone from a fast-food chain.

The new Missouri state map is hot off the presses. Order your free copy today so you'll always have the clearest directions with you for your Missouri travel.

In the meantime, my own direction now is to make an ice-cream run after work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Disappearing Dump Trucks!



My mom always said that my first sentence was, “Me do!” And it seems that anytime I can do and see things for myself, the lesson sticks with me – especially if what I do is out of the ordinary. So I have no doubt that the young adults who participated in a recent “No Zone” event are living the lessons they learned about large trucks’ blind spots.

Wal-Mart, the Missouri Motor Carriers Association and MoDOT brought an 18-wheeler to a Jefferson City parking lot, parked full-sized dump trucks to the back and sides of the trailer and placed a car in front of the truck tractor.

The youths – all enrolled in transportation career exploration programs – climbed into the cab, settled into the driver’s position and discovered something amazing…the dump trucks had DISAPPEARED!

Check out the video. Watch the reactions when the youths realize they can’t see the bright yellow behemoths parked just a few feet away. Without leaning way out of a safe driving position, there was no way to see any of the other vehicles. The vehicle in front of the truck might as well have been a speck on the pavement.

I have no doubt that these young drivers learned a new respect for commercial drivers. When they travel near trucks, they keep look for the drivers’ mirrors, knowing that unless they see the driver, the driver doesn’t see them. They don’t linger while passing and make sure they see the top of the truck in their own mirrors before completing a pass.

Sometimes, "do by self" is the best way to learn how to Arrive Alive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Think Before You Drink


I dropped my kids off today for their first day of school – my little girl started kindergarten. And while it was a bittersweet day for me, I realize how lucky I am to have these moments with my kids. There are families everywhere who don’t have these opportunities because of someone else’s choice to drink and drive.

Today, as Missouri kicks off its annual You Drink & Drive. You Lose. campaign, I urge all drivers to think before you drink.

Besides kicking off our impaired driving campaign, we’re also highlighting a new law to help memorialize drunk driving victims. A new roadside memorial sign for impaired driving victims was unveiled today that will urge drivers to think about their choices this August and in the months ahead.

The signs are part of legislation that goes into effect Aug. 28 called David’s Law. The law is named after David Poenicke, a victim of impaired driving. The blue memorial signs read "Drunk Driving Victim!" and include the person's initials and the month and year they were killed. At the bottom it reads "Think About It!"

If each and every one of us would just take a moment and think about the consequences before driving impaired, we could save so many families from so much anguish. Please think before you drink, and help ensure that each of us is there to spend the big and small moments with our families.