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


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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can We Talk?

As MoDOT's Web manager, I love talking about the many features of the department's Web site. It offers all kinds of community services that can benefit Missourians. It's just a matter of folks using them!

One of these features is our Request A Speaker page at

If your group or organization needs a transportation expert to talk about MoDOT projects, services, plans, policies -- or anything along those lines -- just go to the Web address mentioned above and fill out the online form. We'll work with you to find a department speaker who meets your needs.

Whether it's for a civic organization, a local business group or just a group of engaged citizens, we will send someone in person to answer all your questions and make you a part of the process.

The Request A Speaker service is one of the best ways to get first-hand information on your department of transportation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Did You Do It?

Why did you do it?

Can anyone say they have never littered? We are all probably guilty of this at some point, but this video takes away all of your excuses. Keep Missouri litter-free, and feel free to pick up that soda can someone else may have left behind.

And a special shout-out to those who participated in this spring's No MOre Trash Bash. Congratulations on picking up 111,000 bags of trash!

What Lies Beneath

Why do highways need to be rebuilt? This video shows you what lies beneath, and why highways eventually need more than a facelift.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1,000 Fans!

I'd like to send out a big thank-you to each of our facebook fans for helping us reach 1,000 fans today! Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and this blog have allowed us to reach out to customers in new ways, and we appreciate each fan, follower and comment.

Keep 'em coming! We want to hear your thoughts on how to best make your travel in Missouri smooth and safe.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Missouri Is More Bike Friendly

MoDOT works hard to factor bicycle and pedestrian travel into its highway projects, and has made a lot of headway making state roads and bridges more user-friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists recently ranked Missouri as the 17th most bike friendly state in the nation, an 11-spot jump from last year.

Here are just a few examples of bike-friendly projects:
· Under the planned rehabilitation of the Heart of America Bridge, which connects downtown Kansas City with north Kansas City via Route 9, the bridge will be reconfigured to provide a barrier-protected path for bicycles and pedestrians. Signs reminding bicyclists and motorists to share the road will also be installed.

· The project to rebuild Interstate 64 now under way in St. Louis called for two new bicycle/pedestrian underpasses, which are now complete. A multi-use path at Hampton and I-64 that used to cross over a heavily traveled road now passes underneath to protect bicyclists and pedestrians from traffic. In addition, a new, more open bypass just west of Kingshighway lets bikers and pedestrians cross safely under the interstate.

· A protected pedestrian/bicycle walkway was built down the center of Kansas Expressway over Interstate 44 in Springfield as part of a diverging diamond interchange project that was completed in June.

· MoDOT is collaborating with the city of Rolla on a multi-phase project that has provided 9.07 miles of biking and walking paths to date, with an additional 1.72 miles planned. Once complete, the paths will connect to provide a comprehensive bike and pedestrian sidewalk network.

· An asphalt bicycle/pedestrian trail is being built in Riverview Park in Hannibal with federal enhancement funds. When finished later this summer, it will connect Riverview Park visitors to downtown Hannibal.

You can learn more about the league’s bike-friendly report at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not So Funny

I went to a comedy club the other night and the first thing the out-of-state comedian said was that he hated Missouri cops. Apparently he had been pulled over for speeding just after he crossed the state line into Missouri. On the outside I smiled, but inside I was doing a happy dance and thinking, “Hey the Heat Is On buddy”, and it’s working!

The funny guy went on to try to find a cop in the audience that would admit to his profession so that he could humiliate him in front of a crowd. There was a highway patrolman in the front row, but he wasn’t ashamed to admit it.

I have been pulled over for speeding myself. At the first glimpse of flashing lights in my rear view, my heart rate jumps and the armor comes up. I quickly go on the defensive, “Oh, come on, I wasn’t going that fast. What, are you having a bad day?” When in fact I was 10 mph over the limit.

Law enforcement officers are there, ultimately to keep us from killing ourselves and each other. Without them, who knows how fast we’d drive or how many stupid things we’d try just because no one was watching.

I’m happy to know that the cops are out there – nabbing those funny guys and keeping us safe.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

County Maps Available on MoDOT Web site

Here’s a “Didja Know?” that many Missourians might find helpful: Maps of all 114 Missouri counties are available for download in PDF format at

The maps shows county roads, waterways, airports, hospitals, cemeteries and many other county features that a city map or state map can’t highlight in detail.

If you’re interested in viewing or downloading these maps you need to make sure you have a version of Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer. If you don’t, the program is free and easy to find with any search engine or by going to