Thursday, April 29, 2010

Make Your Car a No Phone Zone

Look in your phone at the last call or text message you received. Is that call or text worth your life?

Take a stand against distracted driving on Friday, April 30 and declare your car a “No Phone Zone.”

A national effort to honor victims of distracted driving, “No Phone Zone Day” will educate and activate Americans to end the deadly driving habits that kill nearly 6,000 Americans a year, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Missouri passed a law last year prohibiting drivers 21 and under from texting. The Missouri Legislature is currently looking at expanding the law to all drivers.
All states are asked to take the “No Phone Zone” pledge. By pledging, drivers agree to make their car a “No Phone Zone” and refrain from using their phone while driving, eliminating distractions from incoming calls, texts or e-mails. Go to to pledge.

Put your phones away while driving. No call or text is worth your life.
For additional information on distracted driving, visit or

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Spring Cleaning Time for MoDOT

It’s that time of year. People are spring cleaning and getting rid of things they no longer need or want, and MoDOT is no exception. This week, the department is selling 32 pieces of prime real estate no longer needed to run the state highway system. The parcels, which range in size from a quarter of an acre to 200 acres, will be conveyed by sealed bid or public auction. More information can be found at

Selling excess land enables the department to put more money into state highway projects. In fiscal year 2009, MoDOT sold 228 properties, generating more than $4.2 million for state highway improvements.

As an added bonus, the department’s Realty to Roads program is gaining national recognition as a property management model. The Federal Highway Administration has given the program its 2010 Excellence in Right of Way award in the Technical Specialties category.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Safety Net

Sometimes you just need something to catch you.

Like a safety net, median guard cable is making Missouri highways much safer. The steel wire ropes are credited with saving approximately 45 lives each year in the state. With more than 600 miles of cable along Missouri highways, the latest installation has begun on Route 63 between Columbia and Jefferson City.

The video below demonstrates how guard cable stops most vehicles from crossing a median. Check it out and see how guard cables prove their worth as a first line of defense.

Friday, April 23, 2010

MoDOT Doing Its Part to Take Care of the Environment

I was at Wal-Mart the other night and as I got back to my vehicle I found a huge pile of trash sitting in the parking lot next to my car. I guess the people next to us wanted a cleaner car and thought they’d just dump their trash out. Happy Earth Day everyone.

Fortunately, unlike the rude folks who dumped their trash out for others to clean up, MoDOT is quite progressive with everything we do to try to be conscientious about the environment. We recycle everything from paper to signs and all sorts of things in between. We host programs like Adopt-A-Highway and No MOre Trash! We also participate in events around the state when possible to educate people on our various programs and activities.

Today, along with several other state agencies, we participated in Earth Day at the Capitol. We had a large tent on the south lawn of the Capitol, and we handed out about 3,000 tree seedlings to the thousands of visitors who came through our booth. We also talked to folks about how they can get involved with our various programs and asked them to sign a pledge not to litter. We even had a few games to entertain and educate the younger visitors coming through.

The video below gives you a peek into our Earth Day fun. I encourage everyone to get out and try to make a difference. April is No More Trash! month and there’s still time for you to get out there and help clean up our state. Let’s all work together to make Missouri a more cleaner, beautiful place to live. And if you see someone dumping their trash out, speak up and let them know you don’t appreciate it – or at least get their license plate number and report them. No MOre Trash!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Batty for Earth Day

Here is a story I learned of from our Southwest District Office that just screeches to be told this Earth Day:

Once upon a time ... well, ok, in 2004, there was a cave in McDonald County that was becoming popular for curious people - a little too popular, really. The current residents of the cave, such as bats and salamanders, were struggling to survive due to frequent visits from humans. The cave also wasn't considered structurally sound for explorers.
MoDOT heeded the recommendation from the Missouri Department of Conservation to install a gate -- something to keep people out but allow the bats to come and go freely from their home. The gate also allows the natural stream inside to flow as it has for thousands of years.
"The Conservation Department suggested we use angled steel because bats use sonar to navigate their way," said Senior Biological Specialist Alan Leary. "Sound bounces off the angled steel and guides bats through the gate. Rebar, which isn't angled, would affect the sonar, causing the bats to harm themselves trying to get in or out of the gate. They would leave the cave, thus affecting the cave's ecosystem and environment."
Prior to the gate's installation, the highest number of bats reported in the cave was about 25, mostly the Eastern Pipestrelle.
Leary said there were also reports of salamander larvae in the cave that probably would not have lived to adulthood because of the human disturbances.
Here comes the happy ending: In January 2010, Leary visited the cave and saw more than 250 Eastern Pipestrelles and four adult Ozark blind salamanders, also known as grotto salamanders.
"MoDOT normally isn't popular with cavers and spelunkers," Leary said, "but I think installing the gate to save the cave and its animals has mended those relationships. And we always like to do positive things for the environment."
And they lived happily ever after. Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Working Together for Work Zone Safety

MoDOT and Missouri State Highway Patrol team up to keep work zones safe for everyone. Watch Trooper Kyle Green as he stops motorists that have been speeding in a work zone.

Working together, MoDOT and the MSHP show you why it is so important to stay alert and pay attention while driving in a work zone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Have I Done?

One second of inattention -- that all it takes. In a work zone, that may mean a hefty fine, but it can also be much worse. It can mean a tragedy that can't be replayed and can't be erased.
The video above reminds drivers why they shouldn't barrel through work zones. It features a motorist after he's been in a crash in a work zone. His ordinary commute home turns into a nightmare when he realizes that what he crashed into was a person.
Last year in Missouri, 13 people were killed in work zones, an increase from 2008 when 12 people were killed. During Work Zone Awareness Week this week, MoDOT will remind motorists of the need for safe driving in other ways, too -- you'll hear radio spots, see internet banner ads and see reminders on fuel pump tops at various gas stations.
The video makes you realize the tragedy that any one of us could cause in just a second.
Drive Smart. Arrive Alive.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Driver Arrested After Unbelted Passenger Dies in Work Zone Crash

A driver has been arrested for vehicular homicide because his unbelted passenger was killed in an early-morning traffic crash in a work zone Monday in the state of Washington. According to the Seattle Times, just after midnight Monday, the driver and his passenger were heading south on Interstate 5 when they crashed through several barrels in a work zone, and slammed into the back of a parked transportation department pickup. And although the driver was belted and he survived, he could pay with the rest of his life for allowing his passenger to ride unbelted.

This story hits close to home, because even though it took place in Washington and not Missouri, it touches on two traffic issues in our state that affect us all: work zones and seat belts. And this situation is especially poignant right now because April 19 kicks off work zone awareness week, which means you’ll be seeing orange barrels all over the state soon.

And unfortunately, crashes in work zones happen more than you may think. In fact, in 2009 there were almost 2,200 crashes in Missouri work zones. Thirteen people were killed in these crashes and another 670 injured. Between 2005 and 2009, 64 people were killed and 4,260 people were injured in Missouri work zones.

Although there are various reasons for work zone crashes like inattention, following too closely, improper lane usage/change, too fast for conditions and failure to yield – the main reason traffic fatalities are so high is because motorists don’t buckle up. In 2009, of the 878 total traffic fatalities, 693 were vehicle occupant fatalities and 67 percent of them were not wearing a seat belt.

I don’t let anyone ride in my vehicle unless they are buckled, period. And I pay attention and follow the signs in work zones. If we all remembered these few rules, we’d have fewer families mourning the loss of loved ones. So remember, Buckle up and Don’t Barrel Through Work Zones. Arrive Alive.

One Million and Counting...

Kansas City's Interstate 29/35 Bond Bridge Project On Time, On Budget

MoDOT Director Pete Rahn joined the kcIcon Project Community Advisory Group, Workforce Development Committee members, and the Paseo Corridor Constructors contractor team to speak last week about the fantastic record of the kcICON project.
One million design and construction man-hours have been logged to date.
The iconic 316-foot center pylon is complete, with eight of its 40 stay cables already in place. Another cool feature of this project coming up is a continuous 134-foot-wide bridge deck concrete pour -- that's the single widest in the history of MoDOT projects!
The kcICON project has supported jobs and economic growth for the city. Seventy minority, female and economically disadvantaged On-The-Job Trainees have contributed about 63,000 hours to the project, gaining valuable training for long-term careers in construction.
The $245 million project is 67 percent complete, keeping it on schedule for completion by July of next year. Check to keep up with the latest on this project. Add it as a favorite - you won't want to miss out on the many interesting features of this project.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Track for Safety

We welcome Rail Safety Week April 11-17 in Missouri!

Reducing injuries and fatalities and increasing awareness of Rail Safety are two focus points during Rail Safety Week. Governor Jay Nixon and MoDOT are delivering the message to Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive!

MoDOT, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, other law enforcement, and Operation Lifesaver representatives will be in various locations during the week to educate the public and promote safety at highway-rail crossings. This positive enforcement outreach is to help reduce highway-rail crossings fatalities and injuries.

The video below shares some tips for how you can be safe around railroad tracks and at crossings:

MoDOT Director Pete Rahn has also made rail safety the subject of his podcast this week.

There are a few rules that can help eliminate tragedies on the tracks:
1. Never walk on railroad property.
2. Cross railroad tracks only at a designated crossing.
3. Never race a train to the crossing.
4. Get out if your vehicle stalls on or near the tracks, and then quickly move away from the tracks in the direction the train is coming from.
5. If you are at a multiple track crossing, watch out for a second train from either direction.
6. Never drive or walk around lowered railroad gates.

Want to know more?
USA Today article on Rail Road Safety

Be Safe!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive!

Yellow just isn’t my color, so I avoid wearing it at all costs. Today was an exception. I proudly donned a bright yellow safety vest for a very important cause – Rail Safety Week.

Standing about 75 feet from a highway-rail crossing, I was one of seven volunteers sharing railroad safety tips with motorists passing by Militia Drive and Algoa Road in Jefferson City. One passerby wisely stated, “Cars and trains don’t mix!” For another, the safety message hit home as he shared that he had known two people who had died in collisions with trains.

Fatalities at highway-rail crossings and on or around railroad property are senseless and can easily be avoided. Help us eliminate tragedies on the tracks. Stay Off, Stay Away and Stay Alive!

Paving a Better Way

Not too hot, not too cold... but just right. That's what many road paving crews and transportation officials think about a fairly-new road technology called warm-mix asphalt. I hadn't heard of the stuff until recently, and to be honest, I never aggressively investigated warm-mix asphalt either. What could have possibly changed in the asphalt world that would transform the way we think about paving roads?
I was quite impressed with what I found when I visited the latest warm-mix paving job in St. Louis. Turns out the asphalt world is spinning in a wonderful direction that lengthens a road’s life, helps the environment and saves money too.

When I arrived at the work site I immediately noticed the absence of pungent smells and odors created when paving work is traditionally done. Work zones involving asphalt are typically hot with thick emission-filled air ... this one wasn't. With warm-mix asphalt, the temperature needed for production is reduced by up to 100 degrees. With the decreased production temperature comes lower emissions from burning fuels, fumes, and odors generated at the plant and at the paving site.

I found out that using warm-mix asphalt helps extend the life of roads too. Lower temperatures during asphalt production allows for better pavement density, which determines the durability and strength of the road. Because warm-mix asphalt strengthens the pavement, it prevents water from seeping in – the main culprit for potholes!

MoDOT used about 500,000 tons of warm-mix asphalt on Missouri highways in 2009, which is about 13 percent of the total amount of asphalt used. I'm told these numbers will increase dramatically in the next five years. I hope so. Saving money and our environment, while keeping roads stronger for longer, just makes sense.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Guard Cable in Mid-Missouri a Welcome Improvement

Good news for mid-Missouri as installation of median guard cable began today along Route 63 between Columbia and Jefferson City. In total MoDOT will spend $2.3 million to place the cable along the 25-mile route that more than 24,000 vehicles travel daily.

I have traveled this stretch of highway more times than I can count, and I am relieved to know guard cable will be coming to help improve safety by reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities. During bad weather, I’ve personally seen how effective cable is at stopping vehicles and this will be a wonderful improvement for everyone who travels this route.

Median guard cable, made of three strands of steel cable, is designed to "catch" a vehicle before it crosses into the opposing traffic lanes, bringing it to a stop before it collides with other vehicles. It's generally used where medians are 60 feet wide or less.

MoDOT began using guard cable in 2002 on interstates 70 and 44 and has since installed more than 600 miles of cable in the medians of the state's busiest highways.

A study completed on Interstate 70 showed that guard cable succeeded in stopping cars from crossing into the opposing lanes of traffic more than 98 percent of the time. And, while guard cables are not designed to prevent large vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, from crossing the median, there have been numerous cases where the stretchable cable has kept large vehicles from entering the opposing lane of traffic.

One southbound lane of Route 63 will be closed to traffic during the work, which will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Crews will work on a four-mile stretch at a time, beginning at Route H in Boone County and working south to Callaway County.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Only Trash Litters

These cans are cool!! More than 820 elementary and middle school students spent some time this winter making trash cans look like…. Well, not like trash cans! They painted, pasted, molded and bedazzled their trash cans all in the name of getting people to notice the place for trash is in the CAN.

The kids were working to win prizes ranging from $100 to $500 cash in the 2010 “Yes You CAN Make Missouri Litter Free” trashcan-decorating contest.

Heather Reary’s first-grade class at Potosi Elementary School won first place for the grade K-2 category, and was selected as the grand-prize winner. Their prizes include a trophy, a $100 check and a $500 check. For photos, go to: and

Reary explained that her first-grade students selected a theme of “SHOW ME CLEAN! Don’t be a litterbug!” They used paint, markers, pipe cleaners and recycled paper to create the bug-themed trashcan, which is displayed near the front door of the school.

Kimberly Murphy’s fourth and fifth graders at Kingston K-14 won $100 for first place in the grade 3-5 category. For a photo, go to

Murphy said her students selected a theme of “NoMO Trash in Missouri” and created a trashcan robot named Mr. RoMO to represent the 21st century. Students used tinfoil, used tart and cake pans, scrap construction paper and Styrofoam to create the robot-themed trashcan. The can is displayed at the main entrance of the elementary building.

Marj Locker’s seventh-grade art class at Southwest Livingston County R-1 won $100 for their first place finish in the grade 6-8 category. For a photo, go to

Locker ‘s class chose to, “Help Bessie Keep the Pastures Clean,” and refurbished a trashcan using paper mache to look like a sitting Holstein cow. Students painted the paper mache and added pink pipe cleaners for eyelashes and a cowbell with the recycle symbol. Bessie sits near the school cafeteria.

Thank you again to all who entered and congrats to all who won. Please put litter in it’s place. No More Trash!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Work Zones: What's Your Definition?

How would you describe a work zone? Some motorists might define it as an area where roads are being fixed or improved. Others may list it as merely an aggravation that makes them a few minutes late. And someone like my little boy would probably tell me it's where he can watch the neat trucks.

For many MoDOT employees, a work zone is simply their office. Maintenance Worker Ray Waters offers this description:

"Imagine standing on the roadway so close to passing cars that you can almost reach out and touch one. To complicate things, consider hearing so much background noise from the work that is underway that you can’t even hear a vehicle as it approaches. Instead you must stay constantly aware of your surroundings and rely on your co-workers to help keep a close eye on traffic."

Ray is not a stranger to close calls. Hear his story about how he almost didn't make it home from his office one day.

Drive Smart. Arrive Alive.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Great Time To Be Orange

This week most of us have finally been able to pull out some spring clothes and notice some tulip plants peeking through the ground. Things just get more colorful with spring in the air, and for MoDOT, that color is orange.

The warmer weather brings more work zones, and it's more important then ever that you're traveling safely through them.

One of the ways MoDOT gets your attention for work zone safety is through Operation Orange, our signature effort to turn significant Missouri landmarks orange. That's right, Orange! More than 70 buildings and landmarks throughout the state sported orange last year to highlight the need to drive safely in work zones.

Join us! Show your spring glow and sign up to be a part of a growing list of influential participants by going orange during National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week April 19-23. Together we can make our efforts bigger, better and ORANGER than ever before and help save lives.

Check out the video on our Operation Orange page to see some of the landmarks close to you that took on a fresh orange glow last year.