Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Prepare Yourself for that Split Second

It only takes a split second for your tires to drop off the roadway and your life to flash before your eyes. That’s what happened to a friend of mine and her two children recently while they were out in their vehicle not far from home and ended up in a run-off road crash.

When a car runs off the road, many drivers panic and overcorrect causing the driver to lose control of the car. My friend lost control of her sports utility vehicle and ended up flipping it. Thankfully, everyone was buckled and the kids came out without any injuries at all while she only had a broken collarbone. While we all think we’re good drivers, a crash can happen anytime, so it’s better to be prepared.

Run-off-road crashes are a big concern in Missouri. In fact, they attribute to 50 percent of all traffic fatalities. Luckily, a new public service announcement from the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety aims to educate the public on how to recover from run-off-the-road crashes without overcorrecting. Both the 30-second PSA and a two-minute instructional video are available at http://www.savemolives.com/.

The trick to protecting your life and the lives of others in these crashes is: • Remain calm; don’t panic and overcorrect. • Keep a firm grip on the wheel. • Ease off the gas and stay off brake. • Turn your wheel 1/8th turn to the left. • When you feel your tires hit pavement again, turn wheel 1/4 turn to the right. • Now breathe. You just prevented a run-off-road crash. http://www.savemolives.com/programs/video/30secOffRoadWeb.wmv
video

Monday, March 29, 2010

MoDOT Upgrades Mobile Web Presence


First of all, if you're reading this while driving, put down your phone. While we want you to know about MoDOT's new mobile Web site for people on the go, we don't want you to try it out when you should be focusing on driving.

Here's what's going on. While a lot of "smart phones" can view MoDOT’s Web site just fine right now, many devices still have trouble. To make it easier for everyone, we’re offering two options. When you go to MoDOT.org on your mobile device, you'll now see six simple buttons instead of the whole Web site with all its links and images. The buttons link you to Gateway Guide, Kansas City Scout, a statewide road conditions text report, career opportunities, a form to report a road concern and a site where you can contact us. You can tap on what you want to see and not have to expand the page, zoom in or fiddle with tiny links.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those folks who has no problem with all that stuff and want the site the way it used to be, just click on "Full HTML" at the bottom. You’ll go back to site the way it was before.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Big Start to Spring

With the arrival of spring comes the beginning of the MoDOT construction season, and for the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program, every week of good weather is spawning more and more bridge projects.

Last year, 121 bridges across the state were improved. Three more have already reopened in 2010. There will be more than 200 projects this year as MoDOT's design-build contractor -- KTU Constructors -- makes its first big foray into the field. KTU plans to build 150 new bridges this year, while MoDOT manages another 50 rehabilitation projects. By the end of 2013, 802 of Missouri's poorest bridges will have been repaired or replaced.

MoDOT's contract with KTU requires that they average 45-day closures for the 554 bridge replacements they are delivering. That's twice as fast as the normal pace for a bridge project! KTU built four new bridges in the fall to test their design and construction strategies that will bring speed to the program.

Over the winter, KTU was busy establishing regional offices in Lee's Summit, Bethany, Chillicothe, Sedalia and Benton -- nearby the areas where much of this year's work will take place. They completed bridge designs and put packages of bridges out for bid with Missouri sub-contractors who will perform much of the work. They also have suppliers busy fabricating pre-cast beams that will be used in this year's projects.

To help motorists stay abreast of the construction schedule and to navigate around these projects, MoDOT has created an interactive Web map that includes suggested detour routes, project details and schedule information -- http://safeandsoundmap.modot.mo.gov/sas.htm.

The color-coded map shows bridges that are under construction, those that have been completed, those that are to begin with three months, those that are to start in the next year, and those that are scheduled for construction in 2011-12-13.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

All Aboard!

Amtrak Rider Karen French has seen a noticeable improvement in her Amtrak ride. While in the past she found herself always late to meetings because of late train arrivals, she has now been reaching her destination on time.

"The train is really an advantage for me, and by being on schedule is great," said French.

Since November 2009, and for the first time in history, Amtrak and MoDOT can announce 100 percent on-time performances for Missouri River Runner trains connecting Kansas City and St. Louis. This has been made possible due to rail improvements made just west of California, Mo.

Check out the video “Amtrak on Time”  below or on MoDOT’s YouTube site to visit with passengers and long-time Amtrak users who have seen instant benefits, and learn about how ridership has dramatically increased with the positive changes.

All Aboard!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MoDOT Brings News and Traffic Info Front and Center

We have some new and exciting features on our homepage.

For starters, you'll see links to real-time traffic sites including Gateway Guide, Kansas City Scout and Ozarks Traffic. Similar links will spring up as we add cameras and content to other parts of the state. These sites give drivers current info on traffic speeds, incident reports and road conditions so they can better manage their drive times.
We’ve also put a sharper focus on news items. While we had a little box off to the right that linked to press releases, we now have a bigger presence front and center of the home page. Visitors will also be able to watch videos and listen to audio files related to news items.

Let us know what you think and how we can continue to get important Missouri transportation news to you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

When You Hear the Click

Under Missouri’s Graduated Drivers License Law, seat belt use is required for young drivers. Unfortunately 40 percent of Missouri teens still don’t buckle up. Starting today and continuing through the end of the month, law enforcement will issue tickets to unbuckled drivers.

So why aren’t teens buckling up? A Southern Boone High School student says, “I just don't see it as the most important thing. I think there are other things you can do to avoid a crash.” Do you think the 304 teens killed in traffic crashes over the past three years thought the same thing?

Wearing a seat belt isn’t going to help you prevent a crash. It will, however, greatly increase your odds of surviving a crash. One in four Missouri traffic crashes involves a young driver, and seven out of 10 teens killed in traffic crashes are unbuckled.

Wear your seat belt every time you get in your car. It doesn’t matter if you’re going across town or to another state. It is one of the easiest ways you can protect yourself. Don’t wait until you are in a crash to realize it’s too late. Buckle up and Arrive Alive.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moving down the Missouri River... Again!

Six thousand tons of fertilizer on top of four barges began its Missouri River trek from St. Louis to Brunswick, Mo. on Thursday morning. In previous years, especially over the past eight, most who would hear or read this news would probably say that can't be true. Well, believe it!

Since 2002, drought and low water levels basically shut down shipping on the Missouri River corridor -- in fact, river traffic became almost non-existent because water levels were so low. Well, for the start of the 2010, water levels are back up! Thanks to healthier water levels, this large 6,000-ton load of fertilizer is signifying the start of what many hope will be a very prosperous waterway shipping year.

Moving freight on the Missouri River provides many advantages compared to moving freight in other modes. The most immediate include cost savings and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. For example, it costs .72 cents per ton, per mile, on a barge to ship commodities or products -- compared to more than 26 cents per ton, per mile, for semi-truck trailers to move freight.

One barge full of freight on the Missouri River roughly equals the same amount of cargo found inside 70 semi-truck trailers. That's an impressive amount of gas and emissions saved.

I would say it's a great early start to the Missouri River shipping season when you can move so much cargo with just one waterway shipment. Hopefully many more will follow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MoDOT's Five Year Direction

The following text is today's script of Director Pete Rahn's weekly podcast. It carries an especially important message regarding a new direction for MoDOT as we face severe funding challenges ahead. You may also listen here. A video of Rahn's full presentation to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission is also available on MoDOT's Web site at http://www.modot.org/.

Over the past five years, MoDOT has made great strides improving Missouri’s transportation system and rebuilding trust with the people we serve. Now, 86 percent of our major roads are in good condition. Overall satisfaction with MoDOT is at 85 percent and 89 percent of Missourians trust us to do what we say we will do.

However, over the next five years, we are faced with a great challenge. Our construction program is declining due to stagnant state revenues, uncertain federal funding, rising costs from employee benefits and no more money coming from Amendment 3 mandated bonds.

Our plan for the next five years is to focus on keeping our existing transportation system in good shape rather than building new highways, bridges and other facilities. We are also committed to meeting all commitments made in the five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

It won’t be easy and it will require MoDOT to make tough decisions. By reducing the size of our workforce and changing the way we do business we will save more than $200 million over the next five years. Internally, that will mean an immediate hiring freeze on most positions that become vacant, reducing the number of offices and buildings we own and reducing administrative costs.

There also will be reductions that are more visible to you. Mowing and litter pickup activities will be reduced and signs will be replaced less frequently. We will find a less expensive way to do striping, reduce our use of consultants and use shorter-term pavement treatments.

These actions are not taken lightly, but they are necessary. Your Department of Transportation will rise to the challenge. We are fully committed to keeping the existing transportation system in good condition and maintaining your trust and satisfaction with the department at the current high levels or higher.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let's Pick It Up

Let’s Pick It Up

Have you heard the song “I Got a Feelin” by the Black-Eyed Peas? Whether you’ve heard it or not, whether you like the band or the lyrics, surely you’d agree that the thumpin, beat makes you want to get up and dance or maybe pick up some litter?

All winter long we drive Missouri’s roads and see it. It’s in the grass, on the river banks, in the ditches, it’s everywhere, and it’s disgusting. Luckily, April brings warmer weather and the annual No More Trash! Bash in Missouri, so let’s all jump off that sofa and pick it up!

In 2009, more than 10,000 volunteers collected more than 111,134 bags of trash throughout Missouri, 26,659 bags more than last year. MoDOT crews, Adopt-A-Highway volunteers, incarcerated personnel, Department of Conservation staff and Stream Teams combined to make our roadsides more attractive. Many others also participated in litter-prevention educational events

Some things you might consider for April:
• Pick up litter
• Educate others about litter
• Conduct a litter-free activity
• Encourage friends and family to participate
Please report your activity to us by May 15 and we’ll send you a No More Trash Bash lapel pin.

If you are already pitching in and cleaning up, thank you.

I got a feelin that Missouri is going to be cleaner than ever this April. Help us pick it up and make Missouri litter free!

MoDOT Property Sales = $$ For Roads and Bridges


Garage sales are a great way to get rid of stuff you don’t want anymore but that might be worth something to someone else. MoDOT recently held a garage sale of sorts to dispose of property it’s no longer using to build or maintain the state’s highway system.

The agency advertised 21 highly marketable pieces of property for sale by auction or sealed bid over a five-day period. The realty blitz not only brought in $676,739 that will be used for road and bridge projects, it transferred idle land in the state’s inventory to interested property buyers.

Because the effort was so successful, MoDOT will hold a second sales blitz from April 26-30. Thirty-two pieces of property ranging in size from a quarter of an acre to 200 acres will be offered for sale to the public at that time. More information can be found at www.modot.org/realtyforsale.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Roads, Rivers and Runways


Last Friday was a deadline for MoDOT to obligate more than $30 million of Recovery Act funds to important projects in public transportation, airport and river port projects. Did we make it?

Absolutely. In fact, that deadline was more than met -- much of the money has already been put to work, and improvements are fast and furious.

More than $20 million went to public transportation. Already, more than 300 rural transit vehicles have been purchased and delivered. Four of six purchased intercity buses have been delivered, and five transit facilities are being improved. All of these improvements are a lifeline for citizens depending on public transportation.

On the river, more than $4 million is being invested in five port projects that are all already under construction, including construction of a high-water rail line at Southeast Missouri Regional Port in Cape Girardeau County.

And more than $5 million was obligated for projects at four Missouri ariports, including runway rehabilitation and the construction of aircraft aprons. These projects are complete and benefitting Missourians today.

This is all in addition to the $31 million in high-speed rail grants MoDOT received in January. That money is funding three projects that will increase reliability, speed and safety between St. Louis and Kansas City via rail.

These vital improvements keep Missouri on the move. So, where do you want to go today?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Transportation Important to the Economy?


Director Pete Rahn addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works this morning and answered a key question: Is Transportation Important to the Economy?

Pointing to the jobs that have been created with transportation Recovery Act funds, his answer is a resounding "yes." While transportation received six percent of total Recovery Act funds, it created 14 percent of direct jobs saved or created to date.

But you don't just have to take his word for it. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials has found workers across the country whose jobs were saved or who went back to work. Their stories show just how investment in transportation benefits all of us.

The Highway Trust Fund has been extended for another 30 days, and it's a welcome relief as DOT workers can get back to the business of improving the nation's economy. But as Director Rahn pointed out to the committee this morning, a multi-year authorization bill is still vital.

Listen to Director Rahn's comments at the hearing here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Missouri Miles

Many people may not realize how much transportation really affects them. More than just road work or your daily commute, transportation affects how you live, work and play each day in Missouri.

To show you the scenes behind those orange cones, MoDOT has started a video series to keep you up-to-date on everything Missouri. We take you along Missouri Miles to show you construction projects in your area, provide tips on safe travel and show some unique perspectives of how transportation affects you. With our pilot show, you even get a chance to take a road trip to Bennet Springs for a little winter fishing.

Travel Missouri Miles each month by visiting www.modot.org/modotvideos or through our YouTube channel. Let us know what you think, and what you might like to see covered on a later show.