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