Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Opinions for Improving Missouri's Rail System

Gathering opinions to help shape the future of Missouri’s rail system was the focus of community leader workshops and public meetings recently conducted by oMultimodal Railroad staff in each of MoDOT’s seven districts.

The following comments from participants give just a few examples of what staff learned about how important freight and passenger rail service are to Missourians:

Freight rail benefits Missouri with jobs, fuel efficient transportation of all goods hauled and [it] connects all of Missouri with the rest of the nation.

 [Freight rail] helps get very heavy or awkward freight off the roads, which means less damage to roads and bridges and less danger to auto traffic. It expands shipping options and encourages industry. 

Rail passenger service provides an economical transportation alternative to those with and without access to cars, helps with tourism, helps to save the environment by reducing pollution, and promotes better land use and development. 
These comments and others captured at meetings in October and November have been compiled and will be used to develop a new State Rail Plan. The plan will provide the strategic framework for improving the movement of goods and people in Missouri for the next 20 years.

Multimodal Railroad officials have also met with Amtrak and key freight railroad companies that operate in Missouri to gather additional information for the plan. Statistics such as passenger ridership, miles of track, commodities hauled, tonnage and value of shipments, system size and other operational information will provide an important overview of today’s system. MoDOT will use this data to identify current rail assets, rail system conditions and capacity and future project needs in the plan.

“We had great discussions across the state,” said MoDOT’s Rail Administrator Eric Curtit. “Overall, Missourians expressed that freight and passenger rail service is important to Missouri’s economic well being and quality of life.”

Communities expressed interest in expanding passenger rail service to areas like Hannibal, St. Joseph, Springfield and Branson. Business leaders expressed interest in gaining better access to freight rail service as an economical shipping option that would, in turn, enable them to create more jobs and generate more revenue.

Throughout the winter months, the State Rail Plan project team will prepare a draft. It will assess and evaluate the current system, identify and prioritize future programs and projects and guide long-term policies for the future development of Missouri’s rail system. The team will return to communities across Missouri in the spring so the public can review and comment on the plan before it is completed and submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration in May 2012.Bottom of Form

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plan B: Come as You Are

A new impaired driving logo and slogan warns of the consequences of impaired driving.

On a chilly fall evening, I sat behind the wheel of my car in the parking lot of the college hangout.

“Hey! There you are! Get out! Come in!” slurred my friend. “We found someone we want you to meet. We’ve told him all about you!”

“No, thanks,” I said. “Where’s your roommate? Get in the car.”

“But you have to come in! He’s soooooo cute!”


After an exchange reminiscent of a debate between three-year olds, I decided to pull my ace. Opening my jacket, I gave my friend a quick glimpse of my warm pajamas.

“Get. In. The. Car.” I demanded, as I saw the roommate approach.

The two poured themselves in the backseat in a fit of giggles.

“I can’t believe you came to pick us up in your jammies!” one declared. “What if you got pulled over?”

“I’d explain that I was on my way to pick up two friends who were too drunk to drive … but who are smart enough to call for a ride,” I said.

“We love you!” they sang.

“You should.”

It wasn’t the first time I was a “Plan B” driver and it certainly wasn’t the last. I’ve been the passenger, too.

It’s part of a long-standing pact with friends and family – if you don’t have a completely sober driver or if the cold medicine you took at work makes you woozy, start dialing. We’ve all promised to come right away, whenever called. A safe way home is that important.

If more people did that, some of the 217 people who died in Missouri last year because an impaired person decided to drive would still be here. None of us want anyone to go through the legal horror of a driving under the influence conviction. None of us want to be the cause of another family’s grief.

This holiday season, law enforcement will be out in full force Dec. 5-12, cracking down on drivers who are impaired. For your celebrations, make a plan of your own that includes a designated driver, alternate transportation or a safe place to stay.

I still get an earful about the pajamas all these years later. That kind of grief my friends are happy to inflict.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Save Your Giblets

Thanksgiving can be a dangerous time for motorists, especially unbelted ones. No matter when you're traveling, make sure the only belt unbuckled is at your Thanksgiving dinner table and not in your vehicle.

It's your best defense in a crash. Buckle Up to Arrive Alive!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Limiting Work Zones for Thanksgiving Travel

Ready for Thanksgiving? To help with your travels, this weekend, we're restricting construction work on interstates and state highways. Work will stop at noon tomorrow and resume at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Traffic will still be restricted in areas where there are permanent barriers, and crews may continue to work on sections of roadway closed to the public.

To get the latest road condition reports, keep the Traveler Information Map handy at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Home for the Holidays

Just in time for busy Thanksgiving travel, Amtrak's Missouri River Runner is adding a third coach to Train 316, the evening eastbound train, from Kansas City to St. Louis, Nov. 16-27.

The added coach will help with seating for holiday travelers, as more are expected for the Thanksgiving holiday. Last year, ridership was up 17 percent in November from the previous year.

For more information, visit

Do you have any stories about your train travel in Missouri! Please share your Missouri River Runner memories in the comments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Many Accomplishments Made, Bold Action Needed

Much has been accomplished, but a bold solution is needed for transportation funding for Missouri.

Director Kevin Keith highlighted several major accomplishments to the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight today, but emphasized that we're only spending about half of what we should on needed transportation projects, due to lack of funding.

While receiving awards for the innovative Diverging Diamond Interchange in Springfield and with traffic fatalities at their lowest since 1949, there is much to be proud of. Projects also continue to be completed on time and under budget -- by more than 15 percent. And despite the limited projects we're able to do, 86 percent of roads are in condition.

Unfortunately, our successes are limited by funding concerns. We're spending about half of what we should on transportation infrastructure. This means less projects, less improvements, and fewer jobs.

Our goals moving forward are simple: We'll do our best with the resources we have. We'll keep the system in as good of a condition as we can for as long as we can. We'll work to keep travelers and employees safe and continue to provide excellent customer service.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Take the Right Steps

Take the right steps to stay safe when you're walking! 

Pedestrian fatalities have been increasing in Missouri. MoDOT is launching an effort to reduce these fatalities and encourage pedestrians to be safe, be seen and Arrive Alive.

Whether you're out for a stroll or your car breaks down, you may find yourself near a busy road. Here are some important steps you can take to be safe.
Be Safe. Be Seen. Arrive Alive.
  • Obey signs and signals.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Use sidewalks. If you must walk in the street, walk single file, facing traffic and stay close to the edge of the road.
  • Cross streets only at intersections or crosswalks.
  • Don’t assume drivers will stop for you. Unless you are in a crosswalk, the driver usually has the right of way.
  • Lighten up at night. Wear white or light colors, reflective strips and carry a flashlight.
For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Save a Life

We are so glad Missouri teen Heidi Turner took the few seconds to buckle up. As her car slid on a rainy day and rolled two times, the seat belt kept her in place. When all other items in the car flew out the window, she didn't.

Heidi now knows how to save a life, just by clicking a simple seat belt.
Read the full story here.

If you don't buckle up for yourself, do it for your family. Do it for someone who loves you. This is why:

Heidi landed upside down and was able to crawl out the window to safety, thanks to her seat belt.
The seat belt made sure that the only passenger casualties were Heidi's purse and backpack.

Friday, November 4, 2011

ABDUCTED! - Again! The Adventures of Barrel Bob Continue

It was a strange morning for the officer who had to write this incident report.

In the wee hours of October 29, MoDOT’s work zone protector and spokesbarrel extraordinaire, Barrel Bob, was abducted from his post on US 54 near the Lake of the Ozarks and forced to car surf atop a PT Cruiser.

Luckily, the Osage Beach police were on the job. They liberated the 11-foot tall safety mascot from the back bedroom of a Lake area condo.

Bob had sustained damage to his head and the amputation of his lower legs, but skilled technicians in MoDOT’s Jefferson City shop performed the plastic surgery necessary to bring Bob back to his glory.

Bob’s Facebook fans were shocked by the news, but began teasing him about being taken away by two female barrelnappers. Bob, however, only has eyes for his female counterpart, Barrel Betty, who works for MoDOT in the Kansas City region.

It wasn't Bob's first abduction. Last year, after several days missing from his job site, his dismembered body was found in a field in western Missouri. Those perpetrators were not identified, but those involved in the Osage Beach incident were identified and might face charges.

When the healing process is complete, Bob will return to his work, alerting drivers to pay attention and drive carefully in work zones. Follow his adventures on Facebook at