Friday, October 29, 2010

Watch Out For Real Halloween Horrors

This time of year, I am wrapped up in the Halloween preparations like most people. The house is decorated and candy bought, but we’re still trying to find the pieces to complete costumes for a night of trick-or-treating fun. And while we all know the typical dangers to look out for on this night like tampered candy and ill-fitting costumes, many of us don’t think about some of the other really scary dangers like drunk drivers.

In fact, Halloween is a particularly deadly night due to impaired drivers. According to a study over a 20-year period by the National Highway Traffic Safety administration, four times the number of elementary and middle school-aged children were killed by a car or truck on Halloween when compared to all other evenings.

In 2008, 58 percent of all highway fatalities across the nation on Halloween night involved an impaired driver. In 2009 in Missouri, there were six people killed and 34 seriously injured in traffic crashes during the Halloween weekend. Of the six people killed, two involved an impaired driver and 80 percent were unbuckled.

So for everyone planning a Halloween party for more than the kids, keep in mind the following tips:
* Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin.
* Before drinking, designate a sober driver and give that person your keys.
* If you’re impaired, take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
* If you suspect a drunk driver on the road, contact your local law enforcement.
* Always buckle up. It’s your best defense in a crash.
* Slow down and stay alert!

Besides looking out for impaired drivers, all motorists need to be aware that on a night such as Halloween, children dressed in costumes can run out onto streets and roadways. To avoid real-life Halloween horrors, remember the following if you are trick or treating with your kids:
* Walk on sidewalks if at all possible.
* Make sure cars can see you by wearing reflective strips and carry a flashlight.
* Don’t assume a vehicle is going to stop for you – the driver may not be paying attention or see you.
* Watch carefully for kids in the streets and stay close to your own little “monsters.”

For more information, visit www.saveMOlives.com

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking Impaired Drivers Off the Road

Foristell Police Department put their brand new DWI enforcement car to good use: by making a bust involving 70 pounds of marijuana.

Foristell Police Department was awarded the car by MoDOT's Division of Highway Safety for their 2009-2010 DWI enforcement efforts. They were randomly selected from 105 law enforcement agencies that participated in all five statewide DWI enforcement campaigns from August 2009 through July 2010.

Statewide DWI enforcement campaigns are held for St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Fourth of July, the annual You Drink & Drive, You Lose. Campaign and during the December You Drink & Drive, You Lose. holiday campaign.

During the statewide campaigns from August 2009 through July 2010, law enforcement officers statewide issued 2,385 driving while intoxicated violations. In addition, citations and warnings were issued for 16,521 speeding violations, 3,770 safety belt violations and 309 child restraint violations.

In 2009, 280 people were killed, 1140 seriously injured and 3719 received minor injuries in crashes involving an impaired driver.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

KTU Constructors Completes 100th Bridge

For construction schedules, visit www.modot.org/safeandsound.
KTU Constructors has hit its first big milestone associated with the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program -- the completion of its 100th bridge in less than a year.

KTU Constructors is MoDOT's design-build contractor. They won the contract in May 2009 to design and build 554 new bridges across the state. After spending several months getting their team in place, and starting the design process, KTU built four bridges last fall to test some of the construction techniques they expected would help them meet the challenge of rapidly building 554 new bridges in less than five years.

They started anew in March, and last Saturday reopened a bridge on Route M over Shankton Branch in Putnam County (near the Iowa-Missouri border) to hit the century mark. They've completed two more since then, and currently have 44 bridges under construction. In the next two weeks, KTU will begin work on 12 more projects to wrap up the 2010 construction season.

By the end of the year, weather permitting, KTU should have more than 150 new bridges completed.
But wait until 2011! Armed with lessons learned from this year; with the design process complete; and with a full inventory of precast beams awaiting delivery to job sites across the state, KTU plans to step on the gas. They have more than 300 bridges scheduled for 2011, with construction to begin in February.

The Safe & Sound program is well on its way to delivering 802 new and improved bridges to Missouri. Including the 'quick-start' bridges that MoDOT built last year outside of the design-build contract, Safe & Sound has repaired or replaced 265 bridges since April 2009. The pace has accelerated to where a new bridge is opening very two days.

To stay abreast of construction schedules, visit the Safe & Sound interactive map at www.modot.org/safeandsound

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dirty Trash Equals Clean Cash


My family and I recycle every piece of trash we can, and we pick up trash other people leave on the ground, so I understand the value of taking care of our environment. That’s why it’s so exciting when I hear of things MoDOT is doing to make a difference.

MoDOT Maintenance Superintendent Owen Hasson from our St. Louis District found a way to not only sweep up trash on St. Louis area streets and make them safer for motorists, but to help the environment and save the department tons of clean cash. Thanks to a dedicated sweeping crew and a new mobile screening unit, MoDOT has the potential to reduce its contribution to our urban landfills by up to 90 percent, while at the same time producing usable fill that can be used back on various road operations.

In March this year, crews started using the new screening unit to screen the street sweepings, producing a clean usable fill and reducing landfill debris and disposal costs. One cubic yard of sweepings weighs over one ton and thousands of cubic yards of sweepings are sent to landfills each year. Area landfill companies charge up to $45 a ton to dispose of sweeping debris. Hasson worked with the Department of Natural Resources to approve the usable fill.

So far this year, night sweeping crews have picked up 2,224 cubic yards of road debris. To haul this debris straight to the landfill would have cost more than $131,000. By filtering out the sweeping debris and reusing the cleaned sweepings, the disposal cost is reduced to under $20,000, saving $101,000 in landfill fees from these night crews alone.

Night crews represent only a fraction of the debris swept up in the St. Louis area. During the day, routine maintenance crews sweep up debris from the other major roads in the area and dump that debris at their buildings to be screened by the mobile screening unit.

Hopefully this process can be expanded in other areas to save even more money and reduce what goes to our landfill. Kudos to our St. Louis Area District and Owen Hasson for looking for creative ways to save money and help the environment!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take a Break!

Aaaahhh, road trips. The open road, singing along to the radio, the thrill of freedom and adventure as you roll past the beautiful countryside.
OR...
Small children in the back screaming for the sippy cup they dropped, the dog whimpering for some attention, and a desperate need for some caffeine to finish up the 90 miles to Grandma's house, all while Barney and Elmo rock out to the latest counting song. 
Whatever YOUR road trips look like, we can help.
Missouri maintains 19 different rest areas and Welcome Centers across the state. Located on seven different Interstates, there are a variety of easy-to-access amenities. Visit our rest area map and click on any of the locations designated with stars to see what each offers.
You may even pick up a bit of Missouri history along the way. In Conway, stop to see the award-winning Route 66 displays. In Joplin, a mural made entirely from license plates is sure to impress. And in Eagleville, don't miss the 44-foot glass tile mosaic while you pick up a map, grab a snack and stretch your legs.
Your family ( and Fido) will thank you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Thumbs Up

A new Nielsen survey out this week shows that teens send or receive an average of 3,339 texts a month, up 8 percent from last year. While I like to think that my teen years weren’t THAT long ago, the fact that I never go over my texting plan of 250 texts per month shows me that I’m not nineteen anymore.

The problem with texting is that too many texts are being sent from behind the wheel. I can’t get in my car and drive anywhere without seeing at least one person texting while driving. Just last week I passed a car that had been weaving between lanes for a good five miles only to figure out why: she was texting.

In 2008, 4,457 teen drivers ages 15 to 19 were involved in fatal crashes, and 16 percent (692) were distracted at the time of the crash. While it can be hard to put away your phone and ignore that pesky little beep of a new text message, the risk it poses to you and others on the road is just not worth it.

This week is Teen Driver Safety Week. Talk to your teen about distracted driving. Remind them that it’s prohibited for drivers under 22 and that it carries a hefty fine: $200.

For more information about teen driving safety, visit saveMOlives.com.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take a Tour!

Have you ever wondered what goes into building a major river bridge? Tours are now being offered for the New Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis, where you can see up close how these impressive structures take shape.

Up to 25 people can participate in two tours each month. They are 1.5 hours long and take place on the final Friday of each month at 12:30 and 2 p.m.

"This is a good opportunity for people to see the ongoing activities on the river as part of building the main span for the new bridge," said Greg Horn, P.E., project director for the New Mississippi River Bridge. "We have to limit tours though to minimize the impact to our contractor team and to ongoing construction."

Reservations are required. For full details, call 314-453-1808 and schedule your tour!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Training Road Wise Teen Drivers


As the mom of two teenagers and a preteen, I cherish any quality time I can get with my kids in today’s fast-paced world. But I wasn’t so sure how special that time was going to be when I first learned some of the QT – 40 hours precisely - was going to be spent on the road with my just-learning-to-drive, 15-year-old son (a requirement of Missouri’s Graduated Driver Licensing Program).

When I really thought about it, though, I realized he really needed to practice his driving skills and our time together would give us teachable moments about the rules of the road. So, first it was off to the Capitol Mall parking lot in the family car. It was great! We had a lot of wide open space, yet he had to drive slowly and it gave us lots of opportunities to practice turns, stopping at stop signs, yielding to pedestrians, etc.

Eventually we hit the streets and went on longer drives outside the city limits. This is where my comfort zone was tested … often. I did my best to stay calm and helpful, but my knuckles got a little whiter and there were many times I tried to slam on brakes that just don’t exist on the passenger side floorboard, especially riding down the very narrow lanes on Rte. 179 to our church.

Most of the time, his dad or I practiced with him during the daytime. But, the GDL program requires that 10 of the 40 hours of practice driving occur at night. Good thing, too, because since he got licensed more than a year ago, he has done plenty of night driving; i.e., closing at work, late night arrivals after Friday night football games, etc.

Overall, our 40 hours of QT behind the wheel was a good experience. And somewhere along the way, I became MoDOT Mom because of my constant reminders to him to wear his seat belt. Many times, both then and now, I have shared tragic stories about teens who have died in traffic crashes because they weren’t wearing their seat belt. I can only hope and pray this will drive the message home.

Unfortunately for many teens, their lack of experience behind the wheel puts them at a higher risk for traffic crashes. Did you know that our teen drivers only make up 9 percent of licensed drivers, but they are involved in nearly 24 percent of traffic crashes? Or, were you aware that of the 104 teens killed in traffic crashes in 2009, 76 percent were not wearing their seat belt. We don’t want our son to become part of these statistics, so his dad and I gladly took on our responsibility of helping him become a good, safe driver.

Ahh, but that will soon start all over again. You see, our daughter begins driver’s training next year. This time around, we look forward to using MoDOT’s newly redesigned teen safe driving guide, Road Wise. The parent tips in the booklet will help guide her learning experience and we will use the log in the back to track her practice time. It will be a great tool to help teach her the importance of driving safely. But even greater will be the 40 hours of quality time we will have together.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

At the Top

Congratulations to those working with the kcICON Project in Kansas City, selected as the top road project and the fifth best bridge project of 2010 by Roads and Bridges magazine! Check the photos of the ribbon-cutting event last month. For a view from the top, don't miss the Shaky Cam video at http://bit.ly/am7fIU.




Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October's Missouri Miles

In this month's edition of Missouri Miles we take you to Tuscumbia, Mo., for a look at an amazing bridge demolition. We also take you behind the scenes of a chip sealing operation in Missouri.




In part two of Missouri Miles, we take you to the Show Me Safety Fair in St. Louis. The fair is complete with lessons about the dangers of drinking and driving and stresses the importance of wearing your seat belt. We also have a story on how MoDOT is going green in a very big way.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Nostalgic Ride on the Rails


I haven’t ridden on a train in a very long time, so yesterday was an awesome experience. Instead of heading to the office as usual, I boarded the Columbine car, one of several Union Pacific heritage series cars being pulled by the Challenger 3985 – a 1940s-era steam engine. It is one of only two steam engines of its kind that still runs today.

Soon we were departing for Washington, Missouri. I was awed by the site of the fog still rolling off the Missouri River as we pulled away from Jefferson City. The thick, billowing steam from the engine continuously rolled over the top of the train, helping block the bright glare of the sun on this crisp fall morning. The sway on the tracks and the clacking of the car connectors wasn’t enough to distract from the beautiful view of bluffs and trees now beginning to sport their fall colors.

Not too long into the journey, we passed over the Osage River. This is where a second train bridge will soon be built with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded to MoDOT. This project will help eliminate another bottleneck that impacts the speed and velocity of today’s modern trains.

Later, we passed over the Gasconade River where UP eliminated a bottleneck two years ago by completing a second track over the Gasconade River. Then just before we got to Washington, the train correctly stopped to let the westbound Amtrak train go by.

Throughout the journey, we must have been quite a sight to see for the many people who were stopped at crossings along the way and in the quaint towns nestled by the tracks.

Although the Challenger left us behind there to travel on to Illinois, it will return to Missouri this weekend as a part of Sedalia’s sesquicentennial celebration. What a fitting tribute to a city that was shaped by railroad history. What a great way I have discovered to see Missouri!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Couple Walks 91 Miles to Raise Funds for Fallen Workers Memorial

91 miles. That’s the distance Jim and Theo Feeney walked to raise funds for MoDOT’s Fallen Workers Memorial. The couple hiked nine hours a day for four days. At night, various friends put them up along the way. It’s the second year the Feeneys have made the journey.

Jim Feeney is a maintenance crew leader in MoDOT’s St. Louis district. He came up with the idea for the fund-raising effort two years ago.

"I told my wife I wanted to walk to Jefferson City to raise awareness of the memorial," Feeney said. "She said: ‘Can I go?’ "

This year, the Feeneys started their trek on the Katy Trail in Weldon Spring, Saturday, Oct. 2 and finished in Jefferson City, Tuesday, Oct. 5.

"Aside from my wife almost stepping on a couple of snakes, the most interesting part of the walk was the people," Jim said. "It’s humbling to find out how many good people are out there."

Since 1932, 130 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty. Plans are under way to create a statewide memorial honoring these fallen men and women. The memorial will be funded by private donations. Feeney has personally raised over $3,000 toward the cause.

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the memorial fund can make a check payable to State Highway & Transportation Employees Association of Missouri and mail it to: District 7 Highway Credit Union, Attn: Dave B. Taylor, 3901 East 32nd St., Suite A, Joplin, Mo., 64804



 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Smartie or Dum Dum: Which will you choose?

Will your school be a Dum Dum or a Smartie?

Using Dum Dum pops and Smartie candies is one way students enforce seat belt use in Battle of the Belt. Students wearing their seat belts receive Smarties to reinforce this lifesaving decision while students failing to buckle up get a Dum Dum.

According to the results of the latest statewide seat belt survey, teen seat belt use is up to 66 percent from 61 percent. Unfortunately, that means 34 percent still aren’t wearing their seat belts and are at a greater risk to get injured or killed in traffic crashes.

Battle of the Belt 2010 kicks off today. Missouri high schools will be competing to increase seat belt use among students.

More than 200 Missouri high schools signed up for this year’s competition, an 38 percent increase in participation from last year.

Battle of the Belt consists of two surprise seat belt checks at each high school to measure student seat belt usage before and after an educational campaign on the importance of safety belt use.

Statewide awards are given to schools who reach 91 percent or higher seat belt usage. Awards are also given at the regional level to schools with the highest overall seat belt usage and most improved seat belt usage.

Schools also have the opportunity to submit a 30-second video spot aimed at encouraging their peers to buckle up.

Last year’s winning PSA came from Washington High School and can be viewed below. It featured the slogan “Everyone’s a Winner when you Buckle Up.”

Teen seat belt usage increased by 5 percent in 2010. Sixty-six percent of Missouri teens buckle up. Teen seat belt usage remains below Missouri statewide usage (76 percent) and national seat belt usage (85 percent).

Find out more about Battle of the Belt here.

video

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Two Feet, Two Wheels: All it Takes To Cross the Wide Missouri in KC






Pedestrians and bicyclists in the Kansas City area now can cross the wide Missouri River, thanks to years of cooperation, collaboration and the timely arrival of funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.


Last spring, the Heart of America Bridge began the transition from a motorist-only bridge to a multi-use Missouri river crossing with paths for bikes and pedestrians. That project opened to a crowd of bike, walking and running enthusiasts at 2 p.m. on Oct. 1.
The new accommodations include a barrier-separated bike and pedestrian path on Route 9 extending from 10th Avenue in North Kansas City to 3rd Street in Kansas City.
MoDOT retrofit the 8-year old bridge as part of already-scheduled bridge work. The department used existing pedestrian access to provide more opportunities for both foot and pedal traffic. Pedestrians need protection from vehicles that cross the bridge at high rates of speed. Casual cyclists are not always comfortable riding in motorist lanes that travel at a higher speed.  Advanced cyclists will continue to ride in lanes following the rules of the road, but with greater exposure to traffic.
In tandem with this project, the Chouteau Bridge is also under rehabilitation.
When complete by 2010, the Chouteau and Heart of America bridges will help Kansas City achieve its goal of a phased network of 600 miles of on-street bicycle routes within the city.
For more information, check out the project page on www.modot.org/kc under "Major Projects."

Friday, October 1, 2010

I Like to Move It, Move It

I was a lazy kid. Despite living a stone’s throw away from my school growing up, I can count on one hand the number of times I walked to school. Looking back at grade school pictures, I probably could have used the exercise.

But when I was growing up, I don’t remember anyone encouraging walking to school the way we do now. The entire month of October is Walk to School Month, October 4-8 is Walk to School Week and October 6 is International Walk to School Day.

Kids need 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Walking or cycling to and from school is an ideal way to get some of that activity. Roughly 10% of children nationwide walk to school regularly. Even among those kids living within a mile of their school, only 25% are regular walkers.

So why not use this month as an opportunity to stretch your legs and get moving. Encourage others to do the same. Organize a Walk to School Day or week this month. You might find that your kids enjoy it so much they’ll want to do it every day (weather permitting of course – we do live in Missouri).

MoDOT oversees the Safe Routes to School program which provides safer biking and walking accommodations for children in grades K-8. The program is designed to provide public awareness and outreach efforts and improve biking and walking conditions around schools.

To find out more about Safe Routes to School, visit http://www.modot.org/safety/SafeRoutestoSchool.htm.

To find out what events are planned in Missouri or to plan one of your own, visit http://www.walktoschool.org/who/seestate.cfm?st=MO.