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


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.

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!!

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."