Thursday, June 30, 2011

Minimizing Your Headaches

You have enough to worry about this weekend. Between your children running around with lit sparklers, keeping enough snacks and sunscreen on hand for the family picnic or pool gathering, and the lines for leaving the fair after viewing the fireworks downtown, you'll likely need a holiday from your holiday when July 5th rolls around.

We're here to help as much as we can. From noon tomorrow until next Tuesday, MoDOT will limit the amount of work happening on the roads. It's a busy weekend for travelers and we don't want to keep you from your watermelon-eating contest at the fair any longer than necessary.

We can't completely remove the orange cones - you might run into limited construction and lane closures. But we can help there, too -- plan for those by visiting our Traveler Information Map.

Keeping you a bit less frazzled helps us all. Last year 13 people were killed on Missouri roads over the Independence Day holiday. We're asking you to stay safe over the weekend and follow these tips:

  • Buckle up - every trip, every time - safety belts save lives!
  • Don't drink and drive -- no question, it's just dangerous, no matter how little you've had to drink.
  • Slow down, pay attention and stay alert -- just like Barrel Bob says! You can check your cell phone later, and arriving alive is a crucial component of your fourth of July fun.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Signal Crews

Just a day on the job -- below are some great shots of signal crews working at Route F and Westminster in Fulton, Missouri. Find the full set here. I wonder how high it really seems up in that bucket!

Have you encountered a flashing yellow arrow yet? 

Those signals sure don't look so big when you're driving, do they?

Timing truly is everything.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Over Troubled Waters

This video takes you from St. Joseph to Forest City, Mo. via a Blackhawk helicopter. It gives you a true sense of the devastation caused by the record-setting floods along the Missouri River.

MoDOT is partnering with Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska to provide road closure and detour information to travelers. Visit for the four-state map, as well as a list of Missouri detours, flooding preparedness information and how to travel safely around any flooded areas you encounter.

Safe travels!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What Are Your Dreams?

"On the Road, You Can Make or Break Your Dreams." 
No doubt, dreams can end in an instant with distracted driving. But one teen in Hannibal is working to change that through a song.

Kori Caswell is one of 10 finalists in the Belt It Out contest, presented by Ford Motor Company through its Driving Skills for Life program. You're invited to vote for the top finalists. Visit to vote for Kori today and to show your support for teens driving without distractions.

Distracted driving is the leading cause of traffic crashes in Missouri and nationwide.

Don't let your dreams be broken.

As Kori sings,
     "Keep both hands on the wheel, face straight forward, and turn your cell phone off....on the road, you can make or break your dreams."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MoDOT Minute

Don't miss this week's MoDOT Minute for information on keeping up with the rising water in Missouri and how you can beat the HEAT.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Floods, What Can We Do?

This week, Assistant Chief Engineer Don Hillis get to the point in our weekly podcast about what we do for flooded roads and how we can help prepare for more water this summer. Listen to this week's To The Point.

It appears flooding is here to stay for the summer, and we'll do our best to make sure your travels are affected as little as possible. There are many resources out there for flooding information -- one that you can check any time for road information is our Traveler Information Map.

For us, it's all about the little red icon and how we make sure it doesn't keep you from your summer activities.

From the map, click the Current Flood Information link for detours and other information about preparing for a flood.

Other great resources include:

Official Missouri State Website

Department of Natural Resources facebook page

Missouri Flood Info facebook page

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's Not Necessary

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is working with automakers and pushing for them to create campaigns against texting while driving. The ad above is from BMW - and makes a clever point to all of us parents out there who worry about so many details, but perhaps risk missing the big picture.

LaHood is also asking automakers not to add features that distract drivers -- like facebook and twitter. Says Lahood, "It's not necessary."

In a recent article on, Todd Wasserman asks the question about whether LaHood is standing in the way of progress or working to rightly curtail driving distractions. What do you think?

Wish smart phones so readily available and tempting drivers with the latest social update, would it be safer to have a gadget provided by the auto manufacturer, so that at least drivers weren't holding their phones? Or, is this a path that can only lead to increased injuries and death on our roads?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Near Miss

Today I had a close call. On my drive to work, I needed to make a left turn. Before turning, I looked in both directions and saw that it was clear. But as I began to make my turn, I nearly ran into a motorcyclist coming from the right. Though the road had appeared clear of vehicles, I needed to look more closely.

As someone who promotes traffic safety, that's a bit embarrassing. I was shaken, but perhaps not nearly as much as the man on the motorcycle. It was a relief to know we could both head in our separate directions and go about our morning, but it certainly did drive home a valuable lesson.

Even when you've looked, look again.

And to the motorcyclist out there in Jefferson City this morning, I offer my sincere apology.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Slam Dunk

Sometimes we all do stupid things. Today we’re releasing a new video that shows a kid who’s challenging another guy in a basketball game and betting his dad’s car. Unfortunately for the kid, the other guy is like three feet taller than him. It reminded me of when I was in college and would play pickup basketball games with some of the MU men’s players.

Ok, I’m tall for a woman, but at 5’9” there’s probably still about a foot difference between me and some of those guys. And, if I’m being truthful here, I wasn’t that good either. So, I fouled a lot and ended up with a few chipped teeth… but at least I didn’t bet my dad’s car. It was fun, but probably still kind of stupid. Still, it wasn’t near as stupid as not buckling up. Luckily for me, I always wear my seat belt, and that's a slam dunk for my safety.

Unfortunately for 24 percent of Missourians, they still don’t buckle. In fact, seven out of 10 Missourians killed in traffic crashes are unbuckled. It’s sad, really. It takes a couple of seconds to click your seat belt, and it can save the rest of your life.

In my life, I have a list of stupid things I’ve done about a mile long, but forgetting to buckle up isn’t one of them. So, please Buckle Up and Arrive Alive!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Parents Hold the Keys to Keep Teen Drivers Safe

Recently during a visit with my mother, my son asked if she’d consider giving him her new VW convertible for his 16th birthday. It made us all laugh of course, especially since he’s only 12 this summer. But, then I started thinking about how it really isn’t all that far off for him to drive and I quit laughing.

For parents of teens who are already driving though, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers ages 15-20. And, according to an analysis of crash data completed by AAA, seven of the top 10 deadliest days of the year on the roads for teens occur between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.
Summer just started, and while we’re all focused on what to do to make this year memorable and fun, we may want to also focus on making it a safe summer for our teen drivers too.

To keep safe, parents should encourage teen drivers to use the following tips:
• Buckle up
• Don’t drink and drive
• Don't speed
• Avoid distractions
• Restrict Night Driving
• Establish a parent-teen driving agreement
• Set a passenger limit

Visit for a teen driver’s guide and other info. So remember parents, you hold the keys to keeping your teens safe. Buckle Up and Arrive Alive.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roadside Lullaby

I’ve been interacting with truck drivers and other folks who work in the trucking industry through MoDOT Motor Carrier Service’s Facebook page ***SHAMELESS PLUG *** - - for several months. I’ve learned several things.

What I think is interesting is sometimes met with, well, not really silence. It’s more like deep sighs and the sound of crickets.

Some drivers spend their windshield time thinking of ways to tease MoDOT employees. Yeah, Tony. I said it.

Sometimes, when I pass along news I think won’t go over well, drivers take it better than I expected. Case in point – I reported that the Wright City rest areas, including truck parking spots, will be closed for two weeks in June while the plumbing is completely overhauled. The first comment was, “At least you’re fixing them instead of shutting them down.” Wow. I thought that kind of inconvenience would merit a gripe or two.

Want to make a driver happy? Let them know that MoDOT added 124 truck-parking spaces in one day when the Marston and Hayti Welcome Centers opened. Want to make them cry tears of joy? Let them know more are on the way near Mineola, Mo.

It surprises a lot of folks that something as simple as finding a place to park or take a break from the road is a passionate subject for truck drivers. I know I learned a lot when I started looking into it.

In some places, states are so strapped for funding, they’ve closed rest areas. Completely. Nearly all of them.

No worries, some think, they’ll just go to a truck stop to rest. And they do. But so do the other several hundred drivers out there. In and out. All night. Starting motors. Hissing airbrakes. Then the knocking. Entrepreneurs of the illegal stripe like to hang out in some truck stops and knock on drivers’ doors. All night.

Drivers can strike out for a quieter locale, but is it safe? Stories abound of folks being assaulted, robbed, even killed after parking in an area they didn’t know was dicey.

MoDOT’s funding issues are well known. It’s not like we’ve got wads of cash. But we’ve nearly doubled the number of State-provided safe, quiet truck parking spaces in the past six or seven years.

How? It’s been a matter of taking advantage of situations. Weigh station no longer needed? Knock it down and make it a truck parking area. Ditto for obsolete rest areas. Have the opportunity to blend state and federal funds to build a welcome center? Configure it to separate trucks from cars and squeeze as many truck spots as possible into the footprint. When we add truck parking, drivers use the facilities and take good care to keep them clean and safe.

If you have any doubts whether making truck parking a priority is a good call, ask yourself this question:

Do I want to be on this highway with a truck driver who didn’t sleep well?

Sweet dreams, driving pros. Rest easy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bolder Five-Year Direction Approved

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission unanimously adopted a plan today that will make MoDOT a smaller agency so $512 million can be directed to needed road and bridge projects by 2015. The meeting was streamed live, with more than 1,000 viewers tuning in.

The adopted Bolder Five-Year Direction calls for reducing staff size by 1,200, closing 131 facilities and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment. MoDOT will retain a significant presence in Joplin, Macon and Willow Springs, where the three district offices will close. About 70 to 80 employees will remain in each of those areas under the direction of an area engineer.

Other changes include extending the date to make staffing changes from Dec. 31, 2012 to March 31, 2013, adjusting the boundaries of the new seven districts and revisions to the list of facilities to close.

Information detailing the Bolder Five-Year Direction can be found on, including videos of the full meeting.

In a press conference following the meeting, Director Kevin Keith said "we begin tomorrow" to implement the bolder direction.

Monday, June 6, 2011

That Was Stupid - Bomb Squad

I’ve played eenie meenie miney moe many times, but never to deactivate a ticking bomb. Check out our very own MacGruber moment of “That was stupid.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

No. 844

You routed the steam, now have you seen it?

When your votes caused the Little Rock Express route to win the Union Pacific's Route the Steam Excursion contest, we received many inquiries about when the 1940s steam engine, No. 844, would come through Missouri. This week, those fans have had a unique chance to see a piece of living history roll right up to them.

It began early this week in Kansas City, and I was able to catch a glimpse of the engine last night in Jefferson City. I have a picture of my family gathered near the front, dwarfed by the massive engine (with my son, as usual, refusing to look at the camera). I couldn't help but think of it's early routes decades ago as World War II was nearing an end and trains were so heavily relied upon for travel and goods. When people first stood next to that engine, interstates were still more than a decade away.

This morning, I watched as No. 844, with steam billowing, headed east towards St. Louis, where it arrives this afternoon and will be on display tomorrow. Many more stops are scheduled through Monday, June 6, before it crosses into Arkansas. See the schedule here.

I hope you each have a chance to glimpse those clouds of steam in person. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Safe & Sound Bridge Program Reaches Halfway Milestone

Fourteen new bridges opened to traffic last week, pushing the number of completed Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program projects past the halfway point.

There are now 410 new or rehabilitated bridges that have been constructed all over the state, and on average, another is opening every two days. When completed, the Safe & Sound program will have repaired or replaced 802 of the state's lowest rated bridges. Just this year alone, 80 new bridges have been built.

The program's original goal was to complete 802 projects in five years, or by the end of 2013. At the current rapid pace, the program should be complete a full year early, or by the close of 2012.

So far, 231 new bridges have been constructed under MoDOT's design-build contract with KTU Constructors, and 179 bridges have been rehabilitated through the department's regular monthly lettings.

The average road closure associated with the Safe & Sound projects has been 40 days, or about half the time it normally takes to replace a bridge.

Currently 77 bridges are under construction, with another 12 scheduled to start next week.

Making Impossible, Possible

Moving something that weighs four million pounds seems impossible. Now imagine the four million pound object is 670 feet long and 55 feet above the Gasconade River. Well, MoDOT likes to make the impossible… possible.

The westbound lanes of the I-44 Gasconade River Bridge needed to be replaced and so to minimize motorist impact, MoDOT utilized an innovative method of bridge construction called bridge jacking. This method includes building a new bridge deck on a temporary substructure right next to the existing bridge, and when the new bridge deck is finished, sliding the new addition into place using hydraulics.

This amazing feat closed the westbound lanes of the I-44 Gasconade River Bridge for just 19 days, while traditional bridge reconstruction methods would have closed this same stretch for at least 60 days. Talk about a traffic headache reduction!