Friday, April 29, 2011

Earth Day: Little Changes Can Mean Big Results

Today MoDOT volunteers educated thousands of kids, students, teachers and parents who are at the Capitol in Jefferson City to learn about protecting the environment. The Department of Natural Resources hosted the 17th annual Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Missouri State Capitol south lawn.

"Little Changes, Big Results” was the winning slogan in DNR’s 2011 Earth Day slogan contest. Adeline Forester, a fifth-grade student in Michelle Kemker’s class at the Cole R5 Eugene Elementary School, submitted the winning slogan.

Sometimes it is the little things we each can do that can help make a difference in the overall big scheme of things. I know my family now recycles every little bit of plastic, paper, tin and aluminum. Here at MoDOT, we have won awards for doing that and much, much more. But, that’s the point – we can each do our part both at home and at work.

This event is just one small thing we do at MoDOT to help get the message out. Besides reminding everyone about the importance of picking up trash, volunteers are asking visitors for a promise to not throw trash out in the first place by signing the Litter Pledge.

In addition, visitors to the MoDOT tent have the opportunity to learn more about the Adopt-A-Highway and No MOre Trash! programs. MoDOT staff also handed out more than 3,000 of these trees to Earth Day participants.

The nation's very first Earth Day was held in 1970 and led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The official date of the national Earth Day celebration is Friday, April 22.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trash Bucket

There are still a couple of days left in Missouri's No MOre Trash! Bash, and still plenty of nice weather for you to organize a group to help clean up Missouri.

A new innovation was recently created by a MoDOT employee that makes picking up trash easier and safer. The Trash Bucket was one of five state winners in MoDOT's statewide annual Innovations Challenge, and it will help our state on its way to becoming litter-free.

MoDOT Maintenance Crew Leader Tommie Chitwood used scrap material on hand by cutting the top off a bucket and using the tension ring from the lid to create a bag holder - the holder keeps the bag open and ready for trash. The handle also provides a good grip to hold the bag steady. Volunteers and workers can keep their eyes on the road rather than turning attention away to open a trash bag.

No matter what you use to pick up trash, learn more about keeping Missouri litter-free and consider getting involved today!

Adopt-A-Highway
Sponsor-A-Highway
No MOre Trash!

Getting There -- Is It Worth Your Life?


Usually twice a week, my family and I cross the Union Pacific Railroad track on Highway 179 in Jefferson City on our way to and from church. Each time we hope we don’t get stopped by a train, but occasionally the lights flash, the bells sound and the gates go down to warn us that either the Missouri River Runner or a freight train is coming through. Sure it may be a little inconvenient and it may make us a few minutes late, but getting there – is it worth your life? No!

I have placed a solemn reminder to be cautious at highway-rail crossings on the bulletin board at our church. It’s a news clipping of a car smashed by a train at a nearby crossing. The driver did not survive. On Tuesday, I was delivering the same type of message, just much more directly. Volunteers from MoDOT, the Highway Patrol, Missouri Operation Lifesaver and I met at the Route 179 highway-rail crossing to conduct a Positive Enforcement Program - a key component of this year's Rail Safety Week on April 25-29. We stopped several motorists on both sides of the track to share some important rail safety tips. I hope you will also think about them every time you encounter a train or railroad tracks:

• Always expect a train.
• Never drive around gates when they are lowered.
• Never walk or play on railroad tracks, it’s dangerous and illegal.
• A train always has the right of way.
• Trains can’t stop quickly, so never try to beat one.
• Look, listen and Live!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MoDOT Traveler Information Map Offers Flood Information

Most people know about MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map. They turn to it for snow information and work zone locations. But it also offers flooding information, too. Information that could save your life.



Go directly to the map at this address http://maps.modot.mo.gov/timi/



At the time of this blog post, there’s more than 430 flood closures in southern Missouri. The bottom of the map is red with flood icons. If you live and work in any of these areas, please check the map before you travel.



The map is updated continually and is easy to use. You can pan in and out for a broad perspective of statewide road conditions or double click an icon or area to zoom in for a closer view. Hold the mouse over an icon for more details on the route, date, time and condition.



To unstack icons double-click on a region of the map and you’ll zoom in. For a text-only version that gives information by county and route, click on the flooding icon in the legend on the left side of the page.






Saturday, April 23, 2011

Train Your Brain

Using safety precautions on and around trains and railroad tracks should be a no-brainer. Yet, collisions at highway-rail crossings in Missouri increased and 17 people were killed at crossings or on tracks in 2010. To elevate the public’s awareness about rail safety, MoDOT is sponsoring a Train Your Brain contest during Rail Safety Week in Missouri on April 25-29.

Take the Train Your Brain quiz, and be automatically entered to win one of several great prizes donated by Missouri Operation Lifesaver, Union Pacific and Amtrak.

Winners will be announced daily on Missouri River Runner’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/missouririverrunnerand MoDOT’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MoDOTStatewide.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chorus Calling

Happy Earth Day! In honor of all things green, we're sharing a story from our Northeast District and how they created a habitat to help out the chorus frogs.

Last year, some chorus frogs were attempting to live and reproduce in some shallow swales on the north side of the Northeast District office. The frogs were having a tough time -- since the swales didn't hold water for long, any eggs that were laid were quickly dying as the swales dried.

Last fall, roadside operations staff constructed two small, shallow wetlands in place of the swales. They're designed to hold water into mid- or late summer before drying out. This will allow the frogs to successfully reproduce while preventing predatory aquatic insects from reaching high levels. The frogs have found the wetlands and have been calling loudly during the recent warm weather.

An added benefit? Tracks of deer, opossum, raccoon, turkey and other birds have been noticed around the wetlands, indicating other wildlife are finding them useful.

The chorus frogs will stay in the wetlands for a month or so and then spend the rest of the year in the grass, wildflowers and woods surrounding the wetlands.  

Information contributed by Chris Shulse, Roadside Manager for MoDOT's Northeast District.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why It's Personal

We've been talking lately about why transportation is personal. It's certainly something we use each day - but how much thought have you given to how it would, in fact, personally affect YOUR life? What would be different, and how would your routine change if your connections to work, home and activities just weren't what you needed?

MoDOT employee, Tina Thurman, shares today how transportation is indeed personal to her and affects her family:

“My son Garrett will start kindergarten this fall. As a preschooler, he was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type I). Because his body does not produce any insulin, we have to monitor his blood sugar and inject the hormone several times a day.

There is no such thing as homemade insulin. I can't make testing supplies or needles. I rely on shipments from far away factories that travel by train and highway to reach my mailbox. And it's not just that the packages arrive, they have to arrive when I need them.

If shipping channels are interrupted, it causes a delay in delivery. I can deal with shortages of gas, bread and milk. Insulin is another story. My brown-eyed live-wire can't live without a safe, reliable transportation system.

For our family, transportation is more than personal. It's a matter of life and death.”

How is transportation personal to you? Please share your story here on the blog, or on our facebook page, and tell us what would change for you if your connections were in jeopardy. For more information on how transportation is personal in Missouri, visit www.modot.org/itspersonal.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Last Text

Take a look at your last three texts. Were any of them worth dying for?

Mine were:
  • Yes sounds good.
  • Just left to go to Home Depot and Lowe's.
  • My Contacts Backup last saved your contacts 75 days ago.
Nothing too earth shattering there. I certainly wouldn't want any of those messages to be the last thing I read on this earth.

But if you're texting being the wheel, that message could be the last thing you read.

Texting makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash because it takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds.

In 2010, there were 21 fatal, 69 disabling injury, 477 minor injury and 1158 PDO crashes involving an inattentive driver using a cell phone. Twenty-two people were killed, 85 seriously injured and 679 received minor injuries in these crashes.

Next time you hear the buzz of a text message while behind the wheel, ask yourself if it's worth your life.

A mother and Highway Patrolman tell the story of how a text message cut one young woman's life short.

video

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pain at the Pump

Yow!! Gas prices keep rising and rising - and MoDOT doesn't like it any more than you! Unlike many state DOT's in America, MoDOT doesn't benefit when gas prices rise at the pump because we get a fixed rate per gallon. Missouri's state fuel tax is 17 cents per gallon (for gas and diesel) no matter if gas is 1 dollar or 50 dollars a gallon. In fact, Missouri fuel taxes haven't increased since 1996. The fact that Missouri ranks low for fuel taxes is why gas prices in the show-me state are also some of the lowest in the country.

Let's break it down: MoDOT receives 12.45 cents of the 17 cents per gallon of gas purchased (local governments receive the remaining 4.55 cents per gallon) and MoDOT receives approximately $500 million a year from the state fuel tax. The federal fuel tax rates are 18.4 cents on gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel. The price Missourians pay at the pump comes from four different costs: 65 percent crude oil, 15 percent refining, 10 percent distribution and marketing, and 10 percent federal and state taxes.

Higher gas prices hurt MoDOT because as prices rise, people buy less, which can decrease our funds. Missouri ranks 42nd for fuel taxes, yet we maintain the 7th largest highway system in America.

MoDOT's Chief Engineer Dave Nichols explains more about pain at the pump and how it affects Missouri in last week's To The Point podcast.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Bicycle and Pedestrian Attachment

On a bridge that carries nearly 50,000 vehicles each day, a few more pedals and feet will now be added to the mix.

On April 8, a bicycle and pedestrian attachment to the Missouri River Bridge opened in Jefferson City, spanning the Missouri River and connecting bicyclists and pedestrians with the popular Katy Trail.

Work on the project began in mid-May 2010. It was funded by MoDOT, the City of Jefferson, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the Missouri State Parks Foundation.


Watch the ribbon-cutting below to catch some great shots of those already enjoying the bridge attachment.

New and Improved Gateway Guide

Same address, new look and features.

MoDOT's Gateway Guide has undergone a major rehab this spring.

The new website:
  • shows nearly 300 live-camera views updating every two seconds
  • displays real-time information on incidents and work zones with lane closures
  • provides personalized My STL Traffic alerts for lane closures on the highways you use and the times you need it each day. These alerts can be sent to you by text or e-mail.
  • includes a mobile-friendly version for your smart phone and other cellular devices
  • shows real-time @STL_Traffic Twitter alerts

Check out the new website, take our survey and tell us what you think. The new, updated Gateway Guide gives you better information so you can travel smarter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sleeping in the Office

I work in an office. Once in a while, at the end of the work day, I’m so wrapped up in what I’m doing I completely go past my scheduled quit time. It’s not popular at my house, but a quick explanation to my husband, Sweetie Pie, and a biscuit for Chester, my 95-lb. puppy and all is well.

It’s not that way for commercial vehicle drivers. Depending on the circumstances, their work day must end sometime within the 10 or 11 hours since they started work. Have 10 and a half hours on the clock and you’re just 45 minutes from your favorite restaurant? Sorry. Maybe you can stop there for breakfast. For commercial drivers, quittin’ time is federally regulated.

It’s that way because fatigued drivers make more mistakes than those who are well-rested. Seriously, who wants to share a highway with any driver, even one in a sedan, who has been on the road for 12 hours or more? So all of those long-haul truck drivers you see every day have to find a place to pull over, climb into the sleeper and get some shut-eye – in fact, they sleep in their office.

You’re a driver who made it to Missouri? Good. You’re in luck. In addition to traditional rest spots like rest areas (which all welcome trucks) and truck plazas, we’ve got truck-only parking areas. Most began their roadside existence as weigh stations, though several were rest areas in a former life. When they no longer served their original purpose well, MoDOT converted them to serve as safe, convenient, though basic spots where drivers can wrap up their day and get some rest. We’re one state where drivers don’t have to go as far to find a nice place to stop.

Check it out for yourself at www.modot.org/services/travel/restarea. All of Missouri’s rest areas, welcome centers and truck-only parking areas are plotted on a map of the state. The more convenient, safe and plentiful we make truck parking, the more efficient drivers can be, the cheaper the transportation and consumer costs for things like the gallon of milk I need to buy on the way home…and the dog biscuits. I cannot forget the dog biscuits!

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Car Seat Recommendations

When it comes to our children, their safety is paramount. We do everything in our power to keep them safe. One easy way is to buckle them in a car seat.

The recently released guidelines from American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping your toddler rear-facing until age two. Children under age two are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. The new guidelines also say:

Use front-facing seat with five-point harness straps as long as possible. Many go up to 65 or even 80 lbs. Make sure kids stay in booster seats until they reach 4 foot 9 inches. The typical eight-year-old doesn't reach this height.

But the fact of the matter remains that if you don't have your car seat installed correctly or don't have your child buckled into it, the best car seat in the world isn't going to protect your child. A car seat, even if it's covered in polka-dots, is a serious piece of safety equipment. And it takes some serious know-how to install it correctly.

These are just a few of the things that can go wrong with installation: routing seat belts incorrectly, not putting seat belts in lock mode, using both the lower anchors of the LATCH system and the seat belt, connecting the lower anchors and tethers of the LATCH system to the wrong points in the car, forgetting to use the tether at all, and not putting enough weight on the seat as it is being installed

Rather than fret about whether your baby is really safe in their sophisticated, expensive, top-of-the-line car seat, why not just get it checked out by an expert?

Missouri has more than 200 safety inspection stations. Certified technicians can inspect your child safety seat and show you how to correctly install and use it.
Even if they only tweak your installation a little - the average installation has three errors - you can walk away with valuable piece of mind. If they do a complete overhaul on your install job, you will be grateful they did.

Find a list of inspection stations and the one closest to you here.

Next time you look back and see that adorable, sleeping baby, you'll feel much better knowing that he/she is safe.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Work Zone Safety - A Testimony

As work zone awareness week comes to a close, David Bower, a MoDOT employee in the Kansas City district, shares his story of why work zone safety is personal. While National Work Zone Awareness Week ends today, we'll be working throughout the construction season to raise awareness of safe driving through work zones. Look for more information at www.modot.org/workzones.

Traumatic events typically get lodged into the memories of individuals. Looking back to the events of an otherwise normal weekday in August 1996, they remain ever-present today.

The passage of this day was typical, nothing extra ordinary until late in the day when the stadium maintenance crew began taking down their work zone. For those who are unaware, work zone setup and take-down is often the most critical and highest-risk part of an operation. This is something I experienced firsthand having worked as a maintenance worker in overhead signing. There is an initial unfamiliarity of lane transitions for drivers, not to mention the congestion that occurs when drivers adjust to these changes.

Today was different though. With a promotion to an office position in Maintenance Operations, the responsibilities of two-way radio dispatch came with it. A new job classification meant there was very little to do except to communicate to others.  

The call came over the radio, “We’ve been hit! We’ve been hit!”

From the district office my response was “MoDOT4, go ahead.”

The caller responded, “They’ve hit the light trailer, we have men down!”

The urgency of the voice was present --it had to be bad and we needed to get more details.

My response was, “I need you to take a deep breath and answer my questions."

Meanwhile, several other employees entered the radio work area, ready to offer their support, assisting wherever needed. Turning to another employee, I asked them to get a 911 dispatcher on the phone. The finite details: route, cross street, direction of travel, number of injured employees, whatever we could relay to emergency services was given. The events seemed lengthy at that time; however in reality, were only a few short minutes.

In that time the smoothness of coordination was exceptional. Field operations were communicating with the district office and we were relaying to emergency services. Operations management and staff automatically mobilized and took to the field. We had part of our MoDOT family in need and everyone was answering the request for assistance.

In a nutshell, this is what had happened. While MoDOT employees were taking down the work zone, a motorist had collided with the arrow-board-style light trailer, which Raymond McKelvy and Jorge Bermudez were connecting to the back of their truck.

It wasn’t until everything was finished that the accident really hit home. You see, when I hired in, I worked on the stadium campus and knew Raymond and Jorge personally. These were friends, coworkers, employees with families.

We know smaller traumatic events don’t always garner media attention.  They don’t burn into the minds of the masses. Perhaps they should, perhaps the reality of potential fatal situations in highway work zones should be a call to our driving public, to slow down and draw cautionary attention. The reality is … it seldom does.

I remember where I was during the first and second space shuttle catastrophes.  I remember where I was when the twin towers fell. I will remember the details of that day in August 1996.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Work Zone Safety is Personal

As part of work zone awareness week, we asked employees why work zones are personal to them and to motorists. 

Why is work zone safety important to Cory March, maintenance crew leader in Lancaster? 

"Everyone needs to take into consideration the importance of work zone safety. We all have families to go home to at night or would like to see again. 
Learn, practice and get to know work zone safety. Our lives depend on it."

Even Barrel Bob couldn't say it better. Don't barrel through work zones!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Work Zone Survey Brings Public Into the Solution

You are MoDOT’s customers. You are the ones who fund our roads and bridges. You are the ones who drive through our work zones every day. You are the people we serve.
And we need your feedback.

Work zones are a fact of life. Whether we’re building a new bridge or filling a new pot hole, MoDOT is going to be on the road improving and maintaining Missouri’s infrastructure throughout the summer. And we want to make the experience as smooth and safe as possible.

Yes, there will be delays. Yes, some drivers will be irritated with them. But we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to minimize both those realities.

That’s where you come in. On the homepage of our website at www.modot.org, you’ll see a button at the bottom of the page that takes you to our Work Zone Survey. (You can also go directly to the survey at http://www.modot.mo.gov/workzones/Comments.htm)
There, you can fill a short survey about your experience driving though MoDOT work zones that we will use to monitor and improve them.

MoDOT reviews all the surveys we receive. We take them very seriously. There is even an option for us to contact you if you want us to.

You can help us improve our work zones by participating in the process. We know if a work zone meets your expectations, we’re doing something right. If it doesn’t, we may need to try something else.

One more thing: Don’t fill out the form on your cell phone while you’re driving! Wait until you’re home or parked safely somewhere. Duh.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

THIS is why you need to slow down.

Still thinking work zones are just something to barrel through quickly? THIS is why you need to slow down and pay attention when you see those cones, even if you miss seeing the workers behind them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Barrel Bob Pleads Safety in Work Zones


Hey there! I’m Barrel Bob - I’m 11 feet tall, 8 feet wide, bright orange and hard to miss – and that’s good cause I’m going to be watching for you in Missouri work zones this summer.

Why is work zone safety personal to me? Those are my co-workers out there and I want to them get home safe and sound every night. And those motorists driving through work zones are our friends and family, and we want them to get where they are going quickly and safely.

I think I am pretty easy to spot when I’m in a work zone. I’d think with all the orange signs and orange lights, my co-workers dressed in those fashionable neon green shirts and matching hard hats would be too. …but every year, someone gets hurt…my comrades and hundreds of people just like you.

And why do they get hurt? Well, some of you I hate to say have lead feet, I guess, and go a little fast. Others of you like to follow just a bit too close to the car in front of you. The rest of you are just too busy groovin’ to your tunes, texting your BFF, or updating your status to all your 500 friends. Whatever the reason, I don’t want anybody to get hurt out here so keep your speed down and don’t try crawlin’ up anyone’s tailpipe. After all, the folks in these work zones are improving YOUR roads for YOUR safety.

And we’ll be all over the state this year with road and bridge construction. More than 300 bridges are scheduled for construction this year under MoDOT’s Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program. Statewide, work continues on a number of economic stimulus projects, as well as keeping 5,600 miles of minor roads in good condition through the Better Roads, Brighter Future program.

So stay alert, slow down and Don’t Barrel Through Work Zones. Find me on Facebook or learn more about work zone safety at www.modot.org.

Friday, April 1, 2011

All That Trash


“Wow, look at all that trash!” These words did not escape from the lips of a city leader, an Adopt-A-Highway volunteer, or an environmentalist. They were exclaimed from the back seat by my 7-year-old son a couple of weeks ago on a trip down Route B, just south of Jefferson City.
For him to notice the trash… well, it truly was an eyesore. This kid’s idea of a clean room is one where dirty dishes, dirty socks and random legos and “art” projects are merely great things to jump over on your way from the bed to the door.
His 10-year-old brother (also not a clean freak) added that he thought all that trash “was probably thrown out by drunks”. Surely, your average SOBER person wouldn’t throw trash out their car window!
So, what can we do about all that trash? The answer is so simple that 7 and 10 year olds can comprehend it and even help out!
The entire month of April is No MOre Trash! Bash! The perfect time to get out there and clean up. Get together with your kids, your friends, your family or if you prefer, in peaceful solitude, and pick up some litter and put it in its place.
If you report your litter picking activity, at www.nomoretrash.org, we will send you a cool little trash can pin. And you will feel better doing something where you can see your progress.
If you want, you can even take the litter pledge – We should try this at HOME!
I promise to do my part to make and keep Missouri litter free. I promise to keep my house, my yard and my town clean and free of trash. I will throw my trash away and pick up trash when I see it. I will tell my family and friends about No MOre Trash!