Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Be on the Watch for Paving Scams

With warmer weather comes the urge to tackle those home improvement projects. And while reputable contracting companies are the rule and not the exception, we want to remind you to be on the lookout for traveling dealers pitching driveway paving offers that are too good to be true.

Specifically, be wary of paving companies that approach your home claiming to have extra asphalt left over from a job and offering to pave your driveway. Workmanship can be poor and the costs can be much higher than what was originally quoted.

Most contractors doing business in Missouri are ethical and reliable and provide quality craftsmanship and service. The traveling dealers give legitimate firms a black eye because it's difficult to follow up with them and they often provide little or no preparation work, use cheap or not enough material and employ untrained or inexperienced workers.

The Better Business Bureau recommends the following steps to protect yourself against less than reputable paving companies:

• Ask for local references and verify that the contractor is in compliance with local licensing, bonding and insuring requirements.

• Ask for identification and make a note of the license plate number on the contractor's vehicle.

• Solicit two or three bids for the work you are planning, but don't automatically accept the lowest.

• Make sure all bids are based on the same materials.

• Read all agreements and guarantees before signing.

• Make sure you understand all terms and conditions.

• Never sign a contract with sections left blank.

• Do not pay for work in advance. Pay by check when the work is completed to your satisfaction.

You can contact the Better Business Bureau with any complaints by visiting Consumers can also verify the status of a contractor with the Department of Consumer Protection at 800-842-2649.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Drunk-Driving Memorial Highway Signs Now Available

I’ve never lost a friend or loved one in a traffic crash, so I can only imagine the heartbreak involved. Add to that a senseless and preventable death due to an impaired driver and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

Well, now families of drunk-driving victims can memorialize their loved ones with signs along our highways. Not only does this offer families a chance to remember their loved ones, but a way to send a message to others about the dangers of impaired driving.

The blue memorial signs read "Drunk Driving Victim" and include the person's initials and the month and year they were killed. At the bottom it reads "Think About It." The signs can be requested and paid for by the family of a drunk-driving victim.

The signs are the result of a new law called, David’s Law. Twenty-six years ago, David Poenicke was 19 when he was killed on his way home from a Cardinals baseball game. He pulled his motorcycle over to the shoulder of I-270 when a passing car struck him and his motorcycle. The driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 and was charged with manslaughter and vehicular injury. The first sign from the new program was installed today on Interstate 270 in Florissant in his honor.

Impaired driving continues to be a problem in Missouri. In 2009, 280 people were killed in our state, 1,140 seriously injured and 3,719 received minor injuries in crashes involving an impaired driver. Hopefully these new signs help get people to think twice before driving impaired.

Applications for the memorial signs are available on MoDOT’s website.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saved by the Heat

Now that Missouri Law Enforcement has taken its mark and the HEAT is On Campaign is in full effect, I started to think about one of the most dreadful road trip experiences I ever had in my life.

One boring weekend in Columbia, 11 of my friends and I decided to take a two- day adventure to St. Louis. I opted out of driving my car, but three others volunteered. So we piled up in all three cars and headed out to the highway. Little did I know that this two-hour car ride was going to be beyond awful!

Not only did my friend do between 85 and 90 MPH the whole way there, but she also decided to text and neglected to wear her seatbelt. We heard the tires hit the rumble strips alongside the highway several times as she almost swerved off of the highway.

All of my friends including myself asked her to slow down, put her seat belt on, and even call instead of texting. But we got the textbook response, “stop being a backseat driver!” In my opinion, she was the one that needed to be in the backseat.

Reflecting on that horrible experience made me wonder if many other drivers my age behave so recklessly on the highways. If so, Missouri Law Enforcement officers have their work cut out for them. And I’m all the more grateful that they are turning up the HEAT this summer, keeping unsafe drivers off the road.

Speeders, texters and drivers who neglect to wear their seatbelts beware, as you will all be under the radar on Missouri highways. Law enforcement will also be cracking down on alcohol offenders.

Although the HEAT campaign will be over in September, Missouri drivers should always drive safely so that experiences like the one had that weekend never occur.

To learn more about “The HEAT is On” Campaign please visit

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saving Signs

Teens and others may think it's a hoot to vandalize highway signs with spray paint and paintballs.

Not us.

We think it's ripping off taxpayers who have to foot the bill for a new sign, and that's money that could go to road repairs.

So we're fighting back. We're the first transportation department in the nation to test various paint removers on highway signs so they can be cleaned rather than replaced. And we're pleased to report our efforts have met with success.

While there are many paint removal products on the market, the trick was finding one that wouldn't render a highway sign "dead," meaning it wouldn't strip away the materials that make the sign reflective at night or leave a shadow where the paint hit. Our crews recently put the products to work on several signs near LaMonte, Mo., with positive results, and we'll be sharing our findings with other states.

Cleaning a sign rather than replacing it saves as much as $1,000 depending on the sign's size. That might not take away the thrill some folks get from hearing the splat of a paintball hitting a highway sign, but it sure makes us feel better.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reflecting on the Ride for Remembrance

Nothing but beautiful people and beautiful memories graced the Jaycee’s Fairgrounds last weekend as co-workers, friends and loved ones attended the 2010 Ride for Remembrance in honor of MoDOT workers killed in the line of duty.

Although it was scheduled to rain the day of the celebration, attendance was high. I was happy to see the many motorcyclists that came to participate. One of the most memorable moments was when family members released white balloons into the air in honor of their loved ones. Seeing so many people in cheerful spirits reminded me that the day was not meant to mourn losses, but to celebrate lives.

I had never been to such a ceremony and was very touched by all of the activities that took place. As much as I was touched, I was also tickled by the MoDOT Divas performance. The singing group is made up of three MoDOT employees who sang beautifully at the celebration. I must admit that the dunk tank contest was quite amusing as well. The cool water must have felt good to the employees that participated on such a humid and muggy day.

While the Ride for Remembrance celebration has only been around since last year, I am sure it will be an event that co-workers and family members will continue to enjoy throughout the years.

Many of us know what it feels like to lose someone that we love, but a helping hand always eases the pain. The Ride for Remembrance celebration was certainly a very fun and sincere way for MoDOT employees to extend themselves to such deserving families.

All of the funds raised at the Ride for Remembrance celebration went towards the fallen workers' memorial. For more information about the celebration or to donate to the memorial, please visit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sun Power

When the racers in the American Solar Challenge roll into Jefferson City on Tuesday, June 22, for a checkpoint at the Capitol, they will be greeted with a portable highway sign bearing the message, "Welcome Solar Racers."

So what, you might ask?

Well, the cool thing is the sign is powered by the sun just like the cars in the race. Using solar power is just one way MoDOT strives to be energy efficient and a good steward of the environment.

One of MoDOT's hybrid bucket trucks will also be on display at the Energy and Innovation Fair sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the race check point. MoDOT was the first government agency in the nation to test the energy-saving diesel-electric truck.
The department is also a leader in using alternative fuels and recycled roof shingles in asphalt. Plus, each year MoDOT crews pick up more than 80,000 tires that are left on state highways. The tires are ground up and used as fuel at power plants.
So it's just natural - no pun intended - that MoDOT is helping sponsor the Solar Challenge Race event. You can find out more about the race at More information about MoDOT's green efforts can be found at

A Vacation to Remember

When I plan a vacation, it usually involves relaxing and doing as little as possible. For MoDOT employee Kris Sandgren, his plans are much more noble.

Sandgren is a Maintenance Crew Leader with MoDOT and an avid bicyclist from Springfield, Mo.. Today, he began a 2,600 mile bicycle journey today to bring attention to the importance of work zone safety and raise money for a Missouri Fallen Workers' Memorial.
"When I first heard about the monument, I thought it was a great idea," Sandgren said. "Some of our losses were close to home. It made me think about the monument a lot harder when it happened to people I knew."
Sandgren left from Anacortes, Wash., to spend three weeks of his own vacation time pedaling through seven states. He will ride approximately 100 miles per day and end his journey in Jefferson City, Mo. In between, he will travel through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.
Since 1932, 130 MoDOT employees have died in the line of duty. Sandgren's ride highlights the importance of slowing down and using extra caution when traveling through a work zone and honors those workers who have lost their lives.
The memorial will be paid for entirely by private donations. About half of the needed $94,000 has been raised. The planned location is near the MoDOT headquarters building in Jefferson City, on the Capitol grounds.
To make a donation or pledge by the mile:
Make check payable to:
State Highway & Transportation Employees
Association of Missouri
Mail to:
Fallen Workers Memorial
c/o District 7 Highway Credit Union
3901 E. 32nd St., Suite A
Joplin, MO 64804
Attention: Dave B. Taylor

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cell Phone Chronicles

Now I know many Missourians think you have it bad ever since the text messaging law went into effect last summer. But Illinois, my friends, is a whole different ball game.
One night, while driving home from the city after a night out with some friends, who else but a Chicago police officer pulls me over while stopped at a red light. And why was I pulled over? Two words: cell phone.
It was brought to my attention that night that the city of Chicago prohibits the use of a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle, PERIOD. Not only are drivers banned from placing or accepting calls without a hands-free device, but they are also restricted from composing or reading messages. These messages can be instant messages, text messages and even emails and Internet content.
Although I was annoyed with being stopped for a cell phone violation, the truth is that I try not to make a habit of using my phone in any way while driving. It is rather distracting.
I must admit that Missouri's new text messaging law somewhat bothers me simply because it only applies to those 21 and under. However, after being stopped I now understand that the true goal behind it is to make Missouri roads safer. Who can truly argue with that?
No matter how mad I must have been after receiving a ticket for using my cell phone, looking back on the experience, I am happy that I did. This year, the National Safety Council reported that 3 percent of all traffic accidents could be caused by texting. This year alone Missouri has experienced about 562 traffic accidents caused by cell phone use.
These numbers are pretty serious and I certainly do not want to contribute to them in any way. And as much as it pains me to see past the irritation that texting and other traffic laws may bring, it made me feel better to think that one less person texting while driving could save one, two or even three more lives.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Congratulations to Our Winners!

Just in time for the official start of summer, Tina Armstrong of St. Louis and Donald Steward of Linn Creek will soon be riding the Amtrak Missouri River Runner trains and enjoying a major league baseball game and other attractions in Kansas City and St. Louis. Armstrong and Steward are the “Catch a Train, Catch a Game” grand prize winners, randomly selected from more than 8,300 entries.

Amtrak, MoDOT and the Missouri Division of Tourism co-sponsored the sweepstakes to encourage tourism and train travel in Missouri. It was launched on May 8 in celebration of National Train Day (May 8, 2010) and National Travel and Tourism Week (May 8 – 16, 2010).

MoDOT Rail Administrator Rod Massman said the contest is a way to “motivate more people to take the Missouri River Runner because it is an exciting way to travel across the state and experience many great family-friendly destinations.”

The grand prize winners were announced earlier today via MoDOT’s, Tourism’s and the Missouri River Runner’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. All prizes were donated.

Steward won the Cardinals Grand Prize, which consists of four Amtrak Missouri River Runner round-trip tickets; four tickets to the Cardinals baseball game on July 17, 2010; a stay at the Millennium Hotel-St. Louis; and four passes to ride a tram to the top of the Arch.

Armstrong won the Royals Grand Prize: four Amtrak Missouri River Runner round-trip tickets; four tickets to the Royals baseball game on June 26, 2010; a stay at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown; and four passes for Science City at Union Station Kansas City.

Congratulations to our winners!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All About a Roundabout

Not many people enjoy traffic congestion, extra pollution or intersections that consistently include speeding drivers. These issues are not only annoying, but potentially dangerous. To alleviate these concerns, MoDOT is changing the shape of some traditional traffic signal intersections … into circles.

A Roundabout is a one-way circle of traffic that motorists yield into to keep traffic moving. Once drivers enter the roundabout, they will continue to circle around until they exit on the street they want to continue on. Roundabouts help keep traffic flowing, plus emissions decrease because cars aren’t idling at red lights. Roundabouts force motorists to slow down and they remove the chance of a driver speeding through a yellow or red light.

Navigating through a roundabout is simple, but it’s understandable if you aren’t 100 percent sure on how they work. Watch our new video below to see what a roundabout is, how to drive through one and the many other benefits of these intersections.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunrise on Route 87

Just had to share a couple of pictures our photographer, Cathy Morrison, caught of a beautiful sunrise along Route 87. She was driving to an early morning assignment on the Glasgow Bridge, but stopped to grab a few of these great shots on the way.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Championing Workforce Diversity

kcICON Project team member Jontell Jones was bestowed the 2010 Rosa Parks Award at the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity’s fifth annual Imagine Banquet held June 10 at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center.

MORE2’s Rosa Parks Award is given to individuals or companies who exemplify the courage to stay the course and change the inequity in the metro area.

Just over two years ago, Jones, 28, with two children, was working construction jobs that paid cash and provided no benefits. Jones was then hired by Paseo Corridor Constructors to participate in the On-the-Job Trainee Program offered through kcICON Project.

MoDOT provides up to $1.25 million for kcICON Project workforce training. This training is designed to create opportunities that will grow a more diverse workforce in the Kansas City region and to increase the number of minority, female and economically disadvantaged individuals working across the state of Missouri. There are currently 35 On-the-Job Trainees employed on the kcICON Project. Jones is one of 14 individuals to date who have graduated from the program.

Jones, now a Quality Assurance Technician, has completed over 2,000 hours of training in heavy highway construction. During his acceptance speech, Jones said, “It feels good to go from having a job to having a career.”

Jones thanked MORE2, MoDOT and the supervisors and co-workers at Paseo Corridor Constructors who have guided him through the training process. “I am grateful for the support I have received on the project, and grateful to be able to represent others, like myself, in the community who can excel if given the chance.”

The $245 million kcICON project will reconstruct/rehabilitate 4.7 miles of Interstate 29/35 from just north of Route 210/Armour Road in North Kansas City into the northeast corner of the downtown Kansas City, Mo. freeway loop. The project includes improving outdated interchanges and the construction of the Christopher S. Bond Bridge – a new landmark, cable-stay Missouri River Bridge. Additional information is available on the project’s Web site: or on Facebook “kcICON Project.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ride for Remembrance

You may notice a larger than usual number of motorcycles out on the highways this weekend. That's because the second annual Ride for Remembrance to raise money for MoDOT's fallen workers memorial is being held Saturday, June 12 in Jefferson City. Hundreds of riders from across the state are expected to descend on the Jaycee's Fairgrounds to honor MoDOT workers killed in the line of duty. A memorial ceremony will be held at 1 p.m.

The day is also meant to bring families and friends together for a day of fun, food and camaraderie. Attractions include a motorcycle, car and truck show, face painting, a bounce house, kettle corn, barbecue and much more. All are welcome to attend the event, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, please visit

Here is a video from last year's event to show you what's in store for you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Champions of the Highway

I met some folks this weekend who are experts at the Funky Monkey, the Flying H and the Two-Pole Serpentine. They’re not dances or cooking techniques. Those are the names of some problems built into this year’s obstacle course at the Missouri Truck Driving Championships.

The Missouri Trucking Association calls together dozens and dozens of the state’s best accident-free professional drivers for two days of challenges. The marquee event is a
six-station obstacle course. Everyday driving and delivery skills are tested to the extreme. Supporters roared their support as drivers maneuvered large delivery vans and tractors pulling flatbed, tank and van trailers through obstacles demonstrating tight turns, backing skills, distance estimation and safe operation.

Curious, I started asking drivers about their road history. How long had they been accident-free? Five years, two years, 13 years. One gentleman reported an accident-free career of more than 20 years! He’d driven more than enough miles to backhaul moon rocks.

I asked what caused them worry on the road. Family problems? Schedule deadlines? No.

Other drivers.

Given the chance, they’d beg other highway users to put down the cell phone, stop texting, stop with the mascara, quit reading books (what?) and concentrate on driving.

What else? They want everyone to buckle up and to realize that trucks are big. Big stuff takes time to stop. Big trucks have big blind spots. Big vehicles take time to climb big Missouri hills.

What do professional drivers worry about when they’re on the road?

Your safety.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rate Our Work Zones

Next time you travel through a work zone on a state highway, take a second to evaluate it. Did you have enough warning that you were approaching the work zone? Were the signs understandable and easy to see? Did you feel safe?

Then when you return home or reach your destination (not in your car, please), go to let us know how we’re doing. The work zone customer survey gives you a chance to rate our work zones with the goal of making them safer and better.

Since the survey was made available last year, more than 2,000 people have provided feedback and MoDOT work zones are meeting customer expectations 90 percent of the time.

What about that other 10 percent? That other 10 percent is the reason we need your help. Leave your comments and let us know what we can do to improve the work zone. Visit and click on the Rate Our Work Zones button.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Better Think Twice Before Drinking and Driving in Missouri

It’s never a good time to drink and drive, but this week Governor Nixon is visiting four cities to sign a bill that makes Missouri DWI laws tougher on anyone caught drinking and driving.

Even though common sense tells us all that drinking and driving is a bad idea, many people still do it with devastating consequences. In 2009, 268 people were killed in Missouri and 1,134 seriously injured in crashes involving an impaired driver. I’m sure all those impaired drivers probably thought they were fine to drive. Maybe some of them had only had a drink or two – but that’s the thing, we never know how much is too much or what kind of deadly consequences our actions will have on ourselves or someone else.

House Bill 1695 is designed to change Missouri laws regarding driving while intoxicated. The 16 provisions increase penalties for all levels of drivers under the influence including first time offenders to drivers with multiple DWI infractions.

Although there are many parts of the lengthy bill, the biggest change means that drivers getting pulled over for driving while intoxicated, even for their first offense, will now face jail time. And if you’re a repeat offender and get a third DWI charge, you will go to jail for 30 days instead of 10. It also makes it a class A misdemeanor to refuse to take a blood alcohol content test. All changes begin August 28.

Now more than ever in Missouri, You Drink and Drive. You Lose. To learn more about impaired driving and how you can Arrive Alive, visit

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mr. Maninga Goes to Washington

It's an experience not to be missed.

Erick Maninga, area engineer for MoDOT's District 5 office, has headed to Washington, D.C., for a one-year full-time engineering fellowship with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Engineers nationwide competed for the honor.

The opportunity allows him to bring a Missouri voice to policies and procedures for highway design, maintenance and engineering.

Maninga will be checking in with his Jefferson City office, sharing the perspectives he'll gain about transportation issues on a national level. We look forward to hearing about his experience!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On The Road

Would you like to talk to Missouri Highways and Transportation Commissioners? They might be closer than you think.

The commission is taking to the road, and the remainder of the 2010 monthly meetings will be located in one of seven cities throughout the state.
The commission road tour kicks off June 2 with a meeting at the Lee's Summit City Hall and ends Dec. 1 at the Hyatt Regency in St. Louis.

Here are the other stops along the way:

July 1  --  Missouri Western State University St. Joseph
Aug. 4 --  City Utilities Springfield
Sept. 1   --Hawkins Theatre Shelbina
Oct. 6 --  Ketcham Center Trenton
Nov. 3 --  Country Club Plaza Marriott Kansas City

The commission typically meets in Jefferson City, MoDOT's headquarters, when the state legislature is in session January through May. For the past several years, the commission has taken its business on the road from June to December to offer taxpayers a better voice in transportation issues and to help commissioners be better informed about decisions made for the state.

Learn more about your commission, including meeting agendas and minutes, at