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 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

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

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 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, 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 … 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 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 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,

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 You can also find out more information at

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

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.