Friday, January 30, 2009

MoDOT Makes Push to Sell Property It No Longer Needs

JEFFERSON CITY – In an effort to put more money into road and bridge projects, the Missouri Department of Transportation is taking an aggressive approach to selling excess property it owns. The transportation department acquires land to build, improve, and maintain the highway system. As the transportation system evolves, some land is no longer needed.

“We want to provide the best value we can to Missouri taxpayers by selling our excess property and using the proceeds for highway improvements,” Kelly Lucas, director of MoDOT’s Right of Way Division, said. “Our new Realty to Roads initiative will help us manage the property we own more effectively and efficiently.”

Lucas said the land for sale could be assembled with adjoining properties or in some cases be developed independently. In fiscal year 2008, the agency sold 112 properties at a value of more than $4.4 million. The receipts were added to MoDOT’s budget for road and bridge projects.

Under the Realty to Roads initiative, the agency has contracted with two private firms for real estate marketing and consulting services. White & Associates and Richard C. Shepard, Real Estate Strategies will help MoDOT sell selected parcels of excess land that range in size from less than an acre to 160 acres.

An initial list of excess property for sale can be found at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Nearly 5,500 votes cast to rename MoDOT’s Amtrak trains

JEFFERSON CITY - The public has spoken: Missouri River Runner is the new name for the state-supported Amtrak trains between St. Louis and Kansas City. The name evokes the river that parallels much of the route, plus the Mississippi River at the eastern terminus and the Kansas River at the western end. It was submitted by Keith Kohler of Glendale, Mo., and it received 2,036 votes, or 37 percent of the votes cast.

More than 8,300 name suggestions were entered late last year. After contest judges narrowed those submissions to just five finalist names, 5,455 votes came in by mail and via the website.

At a ceremony today, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Pete Rahn and Amtrak Senior Director Ray Lang, presented Kohler with the grand prize - two round-trip sleeping car tickets to any Amtrak destination in the U.S.

"The Name the Train contest has stirred up excitement for passenger rail service in Missouri," said Rod Massman, MoDOT's administrator of railroads. "We're happy that so many people participated in the contest. A new brand name and new track investments along the railroad corridor are a great way to start a new year for Amtrak service in Missouri."

MoDOT and Amtrak sponsored the "Name the Train" contest in celebration of 30 years of state-supported passenger rail across Missouri, as well as major service improvements in the works.

"We're working with MoDOT and Union Pacific Railroad on a capacity improvement later this year, the new St. Louis Gateway Station is anchoring the east end of the route and the improvements at the Sedalia station are going forward, too, all making the service even better," said Lang.

"Ridership grew nine percent on this route in the last quarter, bucking national economic trends and record-low gasoline prices, so we're on a roll into 2009," Lang added.

In addition to the grand prize, all five finalists were presented with a gift basket from one of five participating cities located on the passenger rail line. The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association provided the gift baskets. Each of the five finalists also received two round-trip coach tickets to any Amtrak destination in Missouri earlier in the contest.

The other four finalists were:

· Missouri Rail Blazer - submitted by Betty Crancer of Sunset Hills; 1,204 votes, 22 percent
· ShowMeMO - submitted by Kerry Simmons of Independence; 1,196 votes, 22 percent
· Truman Service - submitted by John Fernandez of St. Louis; 597 votes, 11 percent
· River Cities Corridor - submitted by Richard A. Chenault of Webster Groves; 422 votes, 8 percent

Missouri River Runner replaces the little known names that identified Missouri's cross-state passenger trains: Missouri Service formerly named the Ann Rutledge - a leftover from that train's Illinois origins; and the Mules. The service will operate under a single brand, a practice that is common on other Amtrak corridors, and the spring Amtrak timetable will reflect the branding.

About the Missouri Department of Transportation
Our mission is to provide a world-class transportation experience that delights our customers and promotes a prosperous Missouri. For more information, visit or call 888-ASK-MODOT (within Missouri).

About Amtrak
Amtrak has posted six consecutive years of growth in ridership and revenue, carrying more than 28.7 million passengers in the last fiscal year. Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system.

For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit

Friday, January 23, 2009

Make the Right Call Super Bowl Sunday by Designating a Sober Driver

Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk

JEFFERSON CITY - Kickoff your Super Bowl Party this year by tossing your keys to a sober driver before you throw one back.

Super Bowl Sunday is one of America's largest and most entertaining national sporting events, with many friends and families gathering to watch the big game. It is also one of the nation's most dangerous days on the roads, due to drinking and driving.

Last year in Missouri, there were three fatal crashes and two disabling injury crashes involving impaired driving on Super Bowl Sunday. This year, make the right call and help prevent those unnecessary deaths and injuries.

"If you are on the roads Super Bowl Sunday, be safe and make smart decisions," said Leanna Depue, director of the Highway Safety Division with the Missouri Department of Transportation. "Designate a sober driver and Buckle Up to Arrive Alive."

The National Highway Safety Administration reports that young males, ages 21 to 34, are most likely to be involved in automobile crashes, to drive while impaired and be among those least likely to wear their safety belts. Research also shows that the same group is the core audience for major sporting events like the Super Bowl.

Be a responsible Super Bowl host or guest by following these tips:

· Make sure all guests have a designated driver.
· Find unique ways to recognize designated drivers at your party.
· Serve plenty of food and include soft drinks, juice and water.
· Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game.
· Have the numbers of local cab companies at hand.
· Take the keys away from anyone who is thinking of driving while impaired.
· Only serve alcohol to guests over 21 years of age.

Be responsible at a Super Bowl party:

· Toss your keys to a designated driver before the game.
· Bring the numbers for local cab companies.
· Avoid drinking too much alcohol too fast.
· Don't let your friends drive impaired.
· Always buckle up - it's your best defense against other impaired drivers.

Remember, Fans Don't Let Fans Drive Drunk. For more information on safety belts or impaired driving, visit

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Move It: State Makes Push to Remind Drivers of Traffic Law

JEFFERSON CITY - If you're involved in a minor traffic crash, one of the first thoughts you might have is whether or not you should move your vehicle. The answer is yes.

A state law that took effect 10 years ago requires vehicles involved in minor, non-injury crashes to move off the road. The Missouri Department of Transportation is using the 10-year anniversary to remind motorists to "steer it and clear it" to ensure minor traffic crashes don't turn into major pileups. The agency is also putting up signs in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas with the "steer it and clear it" message.

"If you're involved in a minor traffic crash and there aren't any injuries, you need to move your vehicle onto the shoulder or other nearby location off of the roadway," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. "Every minute a vehicle stops on the freeway and blocks one lane of traffic, it backs up approaching traffic for four minutes."

Rahn said the law - known as the "Move It" law - also helps reduce the chance of motorists being involved in secondary crashes, which cause 18 percent of fatalities in Missouri.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Commission Awards 35 Safe & Sound Bridge Projects

JEFFERSON CITY - The 35 bridge projects awarded at Thursday's Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission meeting brings to 50 the total number of bridge projects under contract as part of the state's Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program.

The initiative, the largest bridge improvement program in state history, will repair or replace 802 of Missouri's worst bridges in five years.

"We're pleased that within just a few months of launching the Safe & Sound program in September we are able to move ahead with 50 important bridge projects," Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said. "Missourians have told us they want their bridges fixed, and we're working to deliver those improvements as quickly as possible."

The 50 bridges now under contract are all rehabilitation projects, and at least 50 more will be put out for bids in the coming months. MoDOT expects to award 554 bridge replacements this spring as part of a single design-build package. Three teams are competing for the contract.

A complete list of all the bridges in the Safe & Sound program and other information can be found on the MoDOT Web site at

Dave Nichols, MoDOT's director of program delivery, reported that bids on the projects awarded at the Jan. 8 commission meeting came in almost 18 percent under budget for a $9.2 million savings. So far in fiscal year 2009, MoDOT has awarded 144 projects at 9.4 percent under budget for a $34 million savings.

Editor's note: Soundbites on this topic can be found on the MoDOT newsroom at

Traffic Fatalities Reduced for Third Straight Year 2008 Traffic Fatalities Down 5 Percent

JEFFERSON CITY -- For the third straight year, precious lives were saved from traffic crashes on Missouri roads. Preliminary fatality reports show a continuing downward trend from 2005 to 2008 due to the combined efforts of highway safety advocates in the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.

"If the current reduction in traffic fatalities continues over the next few years, we will be on track to meet our goal of 850 traffic fatalities by 2012," said Leanna Depue, chair for the coalition's executive committee. "We'd ultimately like that number to be zero, but a third straight year of reducing fatalities is a step in the right direction."

In 2007, Missouri recorded fewer than 1,000 fatalities for the first time in more than 15 years. This allowed the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety to meet an ambitious goal one year early with traffic fatalities falling to less than 1,000, at 992. In October 2008, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety announced a new goal for traffic fatality reductions at 850 or less by 2012. The last time Missouri reached less than 850 fatalities was 1949.

One of the top strategies for meeting the new goal is strengthening Missouri's seat belt law to allow for primary enforcement. Unfortunately, early reports show that 479 of the people killed in traffic crashes in 2008 were not wearing their seat belts. A 2008 survey reported only 76 percent of Missourians are buckling up. The state's rate has been at a plateau since 2004 and remains consistently below the national average of 83 percent. In the past three years, nearly seven out of ten vehicle occupants killed in Missouri traffic crashes were not wearing their seat belt.

"Your seatbelt is your lifeline and your single best defense in any traffic crash," said Depue. "A primary seat belt law in Missouri would increase the usage rate saving 90 lives and preventing 1,000 serious injuries in the first year it goes into effect."

Amending the current law will also provide $16 - $20 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering. 2009 is the last year this grant is available.

Of more than 500 Missouri traffic laws, the current safety belt law is the only one that has a secondary enforcement provision - a driver must be stopped for another reason before they can be cited for a safety belt violation.

Other measures aimed at decreasing fatalities and serious injuries include continued improvements in engineering, law enforcement and public education.

For more information visit Buckle Up to Arrive Alive.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

MoDOT Plays Important Role in Finding Missing Persons

JEFFERSON CITY - It's something no parent should have to face - a missing child. Yet it is a reality and MoDOT plays a vital role in helping find abducted children and other missing persons.

When an Amber Alert is issued, MoDOT posts the information on 60 rural electronic message boards on Interstates 70, 44, 55, 29 and 35 and on U.S. Route 60. MoDOT traffic management centers in St. Louis and Kansas City also disseminate the information on their 82 boards in the urban areas when not in use for critical travel information. On Jan. 13, the message boards will highlight Amber Alert Awareness Day.

"When a child is abducted, time is of the essence," said Missy Wilbers, traffic management and operations engineer and MoDOT liaison to the Missouri Highway Patrol on Amber Alerts. "Our message boards provide a direct and immediate way to get information about abducted children out to the public so they can be on the lookout."

MoDOT also has placed fliers in rest areas, welcome centers and MoDOT offices promoting the awareness day. The fliers feature the artwork of Rylie White from Lathrop, Mo., the 2007 national missing children's poster contest winner.

The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a legacy to nine-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas. The AMBER Alert Plan is a voluntary, cooperative partnership between law-enforcement agencies and broadcasters to activate an emergency bulletin to the public when a child has been abducted and it is believed the child is in danger. Since it was created in 1996, the AMBER Alert program is credited with the successful recovery of 432 children.

Under the AMBER Alert Plan, area radio and television stations interrupt regular programming to air information about the missing child using the Emergency Alert System or EAS (formerly known as the Emergency Broadcast System). That's also when MoDOT's message boards come into play.

In July 2008, MoDOT and the Patrol broadened their efforts to find missing Missourians through a statewide poster campaign called Operation REST - REcovering the LoST. Under the initiative, posters spotlighting missing people are displayed at MoDOT's highway rest areas.
"More than 24 million people visit our rest areas each year, so they provide the perfect sites to distribute information about missing people," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. "Public information is crucial to solving missing persons cases. The more public viewing each poster gets, the better the chances of bringing someone home."

Strengthening Missouri’s Seat Belt Law is MoDOT’s Top Priority for 2009

JEFFERSON CITY - With the Missouri General Assembly convening today, MoDOT announced its top priority for 2009 is to save 90 lives per year by strengthening Missouri's safety belt law to allow for primary enforcement.

Of more than 500 Missouri traffic laws, the current safety belt law is the only one that has a secondary enforcement provision - a driver must break another law first before they can be cited for a safety belt violation.

"You can be pulled over for a cracked taillight, but not for endangering your life and the lives of others by driving without a safety belt," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "Strengthening this law will save 90 lives and prevent 1,000 serious injuries at no cost to Missouri taxpayers. It's the right thing to do, and 2009 is the year to do it."

A 2008 survey shows that 76 percent of Missourians are buckling up - that number is virtually unchanged since 2004 and is consistently below the national average of 83 percent.

Missouri teens are even less likely to buckle up - only 62 percent. Between 2005-2007, 80 percent of teens that died in Missouri traffic crashes were not wearing a seat belt.

Amending the current law will also provide at least $16 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering - 2009 is the last year this grant is available.

MoDOT continues to work with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, a partnership of safety advocates who have banded together to attack the problem of traffic crashes and deaths, to educate Missourians on the need for a primary safety belt law.

For more information on safety belt use and a primary safety belt law, visit the coalition's Web site at

Truckers Say Missouri Roads are Fifth Best in the Nation

JEFFERSON CITY - Truck drivers have voted Missouri roads as the fifth best in the nation. They also voted Interstate 44 as the fourth most improved highway segment in a tie with Interstate 94 in Illinois. The rankings came from a recent survey conducted by Overdrive magazine, a publication serving the commercial motor carrier industry.

"It wasn't too long ago - 2005 - that our roads ranked second worst in this same survey, and I-44 was named one of the three worst highways in the country," Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said. "We've worked hard to improve our highways in just a few short years, and it's showing. It's great to be recognized by professional drivers who know firsthand what's going on out there on the roads and how important it is to invest in them."
Rahn cited the passage of Constitutional Amendment 3 in November 2004 as one of the key reasons for Missouri's ability to improve its highway system. That measure redirected some highway user funds to MoDOT and allowed the agency to tackle record amounts of construction work in the past few years. As a result, 78 percent of Missouri's major roads are now in good condition.

Rahn also said the agency has begun to focus its efforts on improving the state's transportation system as a whole over the long term, rather than on individual projects.
"It's much more efficient for us to look at the overall picture when we make transportation decisions," Rahn said.

Now the challenge is to keep Missouri roads in good condition, Rahn said. State and federal revenues that fund highway construction and maintenance are lagging because of declining motor vehicle sales and fuel use, while the costs of doing business continue to increase.

Best Roads (from Overdrive Magazine)
1. Texas
2. Florida
3. Georgia, Tennessee (tie)
4. Ohio
5. Missouri

Most Improved Highway Segment
1. I-80, Pennsylvania
2. I-40, Arkansas
3. I-10, Louisiana
4. I-94, Illinois; I-44, Missouri (tie)
5. 1-75, Georgia