Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Car Seats are Like Milk

“Would you smell this milk and tell me whether you think it is still good? It expired three days ago.”

Uh. If you have to ask, maybe it’s best to throw it out. Better safe than sick, right?

When it comes to food, those kinds of decisions aren’t difficult. But did you know that car seats have expiration dates, too?

This week, Sept. 16-22 is National Child Passenger Safety Week.

According to Jackie Spainhower, the Northwest Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Regional coordinator, they sure do. 
Find car seat and booster information at

"Many parents don't realize that using an expired car seat can compromise their child's safety," Spainhower said. "Unless you have specific directions from the manufacturer, the car seat label or the manual that state otherwise, you should stop using a car seat after six years. Expired car seats should be destroyed so no one uses the seat thinking it's still safe."

Car seats have a rough life. The materials in them expand when temperatures inside vehicles soar well above 120 degrees in the sun and way down below freezing in the winter. They take a pounding from little bouncing bottoms – and excited, jumping feet – and are schlepped none too gently from vehicle to vehicle. Hairline cracks can form - too tiny for most to see - yet they can compromise the seat and cause it to perform poorly during a crash.

Good thing there are helpful Missourians who are certified to check car seats. They want you to know they’re happy to take a look at your car seat, get it installed correctly – about 80 percent of seats need at least some kind of adjustment – and answer your questions about the best seating for infants, toddlers and junior backseat drivers.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Inspection Station locator to find certified experts near you -  www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm . Almost all perform the service free of charge.

They will not, however, sniff the contents of that bottle you found under the passenger seat.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Protecting Shoes...and Bridges

This blog was written by Travis Ellis of MoDOT's Northwest District office.

Everything is more expensive these days, and the need to prolong our items is becoming even more important. Many of you take the time to polish or "seal" your favorite, or most expensive pairs of shoes before the onset of winter. You do this to keep what is inside dry, and to make the shoes last longer, just like the Missouri Department of Transportation does with its bridges.

"We seal our bridges for the same reason folks seal their shoes," says District Maintenance and Traffic Engineer Marty Liles. "Whether you are weather-proofing a pair of shoes, or a bridge, it protects them from the elements and makes them last longer."

In the coming weeks, motorists can expect to see discolored bridge decks, extra work zones and crews around many of Missouri's bridges.

As the sealant is applied, it fills cracks, even those too small for most people to see. That keeps water from seeping into the pavement. When water does manage to get through pavement, it expands when it freezes, causing the crack to grow larger, sometimes creating potholes.
Bridges are selected for sealing, or re-sealing, based on a number of factors. All new bridges are sealed prior to their first winter. After a bridge has been sealed the first time, existing bridges are scheduled for re-sealing on a rotating basis.

"We are taxpayers too, and we want to preserve and prolong our roads and bridges in the most cost-effective means as possible," says District Engineer Don Wichern. "Sealing a bridge deck prolongs the life of the bridge, thereby pushing back the day when it will have to be replaced. It's just another way we are trying to maintain our system for as long as possible with the funds available."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Last-Minute Reminders

If it weren't for Post-It notes, I wonder if I'd get anything done. I often write reminders to myself and then place the notes in logical spots...at least what I consider logical.

"Hair," says the note, stuck to my steering wheel, reminding me to run by the salon after work for a trim.

"Chicken," says the note on the door leading to my garage. It was supposed to remind me to get food out of the freezer for dinner. Whoops. I missed that one.

Good thing MoDOT has a more permanent reminder at the end of many of its parking lots. Right before I pull out, I see a reminder to buckle up.

Schools, businesses and other organizations can borrow the stencils to encourage visitors to buckle up and Arrive Alive.

The reusable stencils are available on a first-come, first-served basis from MoDOT's seven regional offices. Designs can be painted on concrete or asphalt surfaces in parking lots and driveways of schools and businesses. Those requesting the stencils must provide their own paint and manpower.

A reminder might just help improve traffic safety. As of September 9. traffic fatalities in Missouri are up 9 percent for the year, and 63 percent of those killed in traffic crashes this year were not wearing a seat belt.

For more information about the stencils or other highway safety resources available to help educate students about safe driving practices, call 1-888-275-6636 or log onto http://www.savemolives.com/.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Showing Our Respect

Many times in this blog, we tell you about MoDOT employees and the work they do. We hope you enjoy learning about what happens behind the scenes.

Recently, we received a note from a resident of Southeast Missouri. Instead of telling you what MoDOT employees do, it explains who they are.

I would like to thank the workers in Jackson, MO next to the park on Hwy 61. We were passing in a funeral prosession for a family member and the men working there stopped digging and removed their hard hats as we passed by. Having moved here from Dallas, let me tell you this kind of compassion and respect is not often given. Several of my family members noticed this as well. I commend these men for the actions, regardless how small, it was greatly appreciated by my family and I.

I am proud to work with thoughtful, caring people such as these.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Part Don’t You Understand?

School is back in session and a hint of fall is in the air. With that comes those first few exciting weeks of school and, of course, big weekend plans. 
I grew up in a small rural town. As a teen we had our local buyer, you know, that guy in his mid twenties that still cruised by the high school during class time, ever so slowly to make sure that everyone knew he didn’t have to go to school. I don’t think he had a job either, but anyway, he was the town buyer.
Slip him enough for a six pack for himself and he’d buy you whatever you want.
Weekends were then spent in a field or on a dirt road drinking ourselves into a stupor on Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, or whatever else we could afford. 
We never gave a thought as to how we would get home. Usually the one that drank the least would get behind the wheel.  We would take the back roads, coast the car down the hill to the house and park it, stagger indoors and pass out. We just didn’t think about a DWI or minor in possession, let alone a car crash, serious injuries or death.
It’s much different today. The word is out and everyone knows that drinking and driving is a deadly combination.
So let’s face it, you know the risk and you know the consequences.
Missouri has a Zero Tolerance Law. If you are under age 21, your license will be suspended if you’re caught driving with even a trace of alcohol in your system. If you cause a fatal crash while intoxicated, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony resulting in up to seven years of jail time, a $5,000 fine or both.
In 2011, 218 people died and 867 were seriously injured in crashes involving an impaired driver.  Missouri takes this seriously. What part of Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over don’t you understand?  ARRIVE ALIVE.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'd like to buy a vowel

Have you ever noticed that there is no Route Q in Missouri? Nor is there a Route G or Route S. While it may seem like someone spilled their alphabet soup on a Missouri roadmap, the truth is that some letters are never used to name roads.

In fact, of the 26 letters of the alphabet, six of them are conspicuously absent from Missouri road signs. Here’s why.

G -- Can look like the number 6

I and L -- These letters look too much alike and also resemble the number 1

Q -- Too close to the letter O

S -- Looks like the number 8

X -- Film-rating designations have given this letter a bad rap

The letter R is used in special circumstances. You will not find an R used alone because they resemble the letter P. Usually it is combined with an A or a B for short state roads that go to a park or conservation area.

MoDOT occasionally receives questions concerning the choice of letters. Some people even asked if there are secret meanings behind double-lettered routes. As provoking as that may seem, the truth is somewhat less cryptic.

The lettered routes are part of the state’s supplementary system. These routes joined the Missouri system in 1952 when the state absorbed almost 12,000 miles of county-maintained roads. The letter designations came shortly after that.

The letters were assigned county-by-county. Starting with A, roads were named in coordination with adjacent counties so there would be a mix in the distribution. If the list of single letters ran dry, then double letters were used until all the county roads had a designation. The original designations have basically remained the same since then.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It’s Only 35 mph

“What possesses people to jump off a tower like that?”

Mr. Wonderful, my Olympics-obsessed husband, is amazed by the accomplishments of the athletes who’ve tumbled, swam, shot, rowed and otherwise flashed across our TV screen. He holds a special reverence for the divers.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
 We watched the teams of synchronized platform divers the other night.


It was as if the athletes shared a single nervous system. They approached in tandem, leapt in tandem, spun and twisted in tandem and entered the water together with just as much of a splash as Missouri has seen fall from the skies this summer.

As we gaped in wonder, one of the announcers remarked that the divers strike the water’s surface at 35 mph. Hmmm. That got me thinking.

People sometimes tell me they only use seat belts when they’re on the highway.

You know, because the slow speeds in town can’t really hurt you.

Here’s the thing - if your car is traveling at 35 mph and it strikes another object, everything in the car – groceries, gym bags, people – continues to move at 35 mph for a time…unless it is fastened to the vehicle’s safety cage. The cage crumples as it absorbs the energy of the crash…like the water absorbs the divers’ forward energy.

Would you jump from a 10 meter Olympic platform into an empty pool? It’s only 35 mph.

Friday, July 27, 2012

One Eye on the Cash, the Other on the Clock

Earlier in July, we learned that MoDOT earned top honors in the Mid-America Regional “America’s Transportation Awards” competition for two projects.

The first, kcICON, won as the large project in the "Ahead of Schedule" category. In addition to widening about five miles of Interstate 29/35 and rebuilding five interchanges, the Kansas City project included the new signature cable-stayed Christopher S. Bond Bridge across the Missouri River.

Construction began in April 2008 and – even with all of that work – was completed in December 2010, more than six months ahead of schedule.

On the other side of Missouri, the St. Louis area’s I-270 Dorsett-Page Project won as the medium project in the “Under Budget” category. Three projects were rolled into one, giant, congestion-relieving undertaking.

It was completed for $2.4 million less than the original $34.8 million budget – and was opened a month ahead of time to boot!

How does this happen? MoDOT and its contracting partners pay very close attention to detail and work as partners through the design and construction phases.

Communities also deserve credit for providing feedback during planning stages and for motorists’ patience and attentive driving during construction.

Working together, MoDOT, contractors and the people of Missouri are able to obtain maximum value from limited transportation dollars.

How do we compare to other states? We’ll get some indication in November when these winning projects compete with those from other regions for national honors at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ annual meeting.

There’s likely to be a People’s Choice component to the competition, so look for your chance to vote soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In Memory Of

Every class has its own crash story.  Whether it’s someone killed during high school or after, they will always be remembered as your classmate.  Not to specifically date myself here, but when I was in high school in the 80’s it seemed inevitable.  Every year you would know someone that died in an automobile crash.  It was accepted as something that just happened and took the lives of young and old every day.  It still robs lives, but we now know that, in most cases, it can be prevented.

I will never forget the date.  Although it’s been over 26 years now, I still recall the events of April 26, 1986.  My best friend and I were playing in an AAU basketball tournament in Farmington, Mo.  We arrived back in town late that evening only to be pulled over by other friends (no cell phones then), and advised that three of our classmates were in a traffic crash, with two of them dying and the third in critical condition.  As a small rural town the community gathered at a local church.  As teenagers we were asking “why”, as we mourned the critical condition and deaths of three outstanding student athletes, and children of our school and community leaders.  The impact of this accident is still felt by many to this date.  It’s something that we will never forget.

Little did I know that years later I would become a safety advocate, fighting to help reduce the serious injuries and fatalities on Missouri’s roadways.  Little did I know that I would be a parent that still remembered that April afternoon and prayed for my own teenager’s safety as I would watch him drive away with friends. 

Why do we wait until tragedy strikes to enforce the mandatory graduated driver license seat belt law on our own teenagers?  We ground them for not doing chores, coming home late, and terrorizing their younger siblings, but what are we doing to make sure their lives are safe on the road?  Why do teens wait until tragedy strikes to adhere to and reinforce this law to their peers?

Traffic crashes remain a leading cause of teen death. As a mom, that terrifies me. As a classmate, that frustrates me. As a safety advocate, that motivates me. Talk to teens - and anyone else you know who isn't a regular seat belt user. Buckling up costs nothing, but can save those who are most precious in the world.

Seven out of 10 Missourian’s killed in a 2011 traffic crash were unbuckled.  Buckle Up.  ARRIVE ALIVE!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ten Plus Five Reasons You Should Be Riding the Missouri River Runner

We received a great comment about this two-year old post today and decided it called for an update.

So here are the original ten PLUS five new reasons you should ride the Missouri River Runner!

10. We work 7 days a week; Missouri River Runner operates 7 days a week and it is the coolest ride to the Missouri State Fair; the St. Louis Arch; KC BBQ! Matter of fact, tell us your Amtrak travel story on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/MissouriRiverRunner) and let us know if we can share it!

9. We sell the best traveling dogs in the state…hotdogs that is, you can eat and ride on our Missouri River Runner.

8. All your friends are doing it; Ridership is up, up up!

7. Amtrak’s Customer Service Index indicated that we are third in the nation on their customer service chart, so relax, rest assured we will get you there.

6. Can you say Day trip? You can easily travel with your friends on the Missouri River Runner with a day trip into Washington, Hermann, Warrensburg, Sedalia...!

5. We collect cans! For a program that helps Capitol City Habitat for Humanity and Amtrak build a home for the needy. Read our Press Release.

4. What a view of the Missouri River you’re going to have!

3. Riding Amtrak qualifies you as being "An Earth Air Pollution Avenger" because riding Amtrak will help save us all from air pollution. Wear your title well, hero.

2. You can get your work done while riding; internet hot spots and AC jacks are available in most trains...so unfortunately this will mean you will no longer have any excuse for not getting your work done while traveling for your boss, so now you will have to make up new ones. ;)

1. Be stress free, we will get you there on time! On-time performance is at an average of 92 percent for the year!

The Man Dawg added these five fabulous attractions to our list. Thanks, Man Dawg!

#11 Independence Mo-Santa Cali-Gon Days

#12 Kansas City Airshow

#13 Warrensburg Mo-Wings Over Whiteman Airshow

#14 Hermann Mo- http://www.hermannmo.com/

#15 Sedalia Mo- Missouri State Fair

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scootch for Safety

That cheer you heard the afternoon of July 9 came from the 2,400 MoDOT employees who regularly work on Missouri highways.

Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 611 into law. This law goes into effect August 28 and expands the 2002 “Slow Down and Move Over” statute that protects law enforcement and emergency response vehicles parked on the side of the road.

So come next month, motorists must slow down or change lanes when approaching MoDOT vehicles parked on the side of the highway with amber and white lights flashing – just like we drivers already do when there’s an ambulance, Patrol, police or sheriff’s car on the shoulder.

With the drastic drop in MoDOT’s construction budget, my coworkers are pretty much in a maintenance-only mode. It’s likely you’ll see more crews next to or on the road as they attempt to take care of Missouri’s existing system of highways and bridges, rather than building new lanes and structures.

Let’s do them a favor. The law takes effect in late August. How about we spend the next several weeks practicing?

When you see a MoDOT vehicle on the side of the highway, either change lanes or slow down. You’ll be doing your part to help hard-working folks get home in one piece.

And to those of you who have always moved over or slowed for MoDOT workers – or anyone on the shoulder – we noticed. We appreciate your concern for our safety and thank you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A View from the Locomotive

My first job out of college was with a large freight railroad company. One of the best experiences I had was the week I was able to experience rail operations first hand.

I got to run a railroad.

Okay, it was only a 13-mile shortline that is wholly owned by my former employer. It was dinky. I didn’t care if it was 1,300 miles. I got to get up and run an engine!

A typical train hauls thousands
of tons of freight.

My companions and I jacked rail, replaced ties and pounded spikes. We coupled cars to the train and pulled them apart. We rode in the locomotive cab or we stood on the walkway of the engine as it hauled cars to local businesses. It was fabulous, filthy, hard work.

When it was my turn to sit at the controls of the small locomotive my adrenaline surged. It was only a 1,500 horsepower switch engine and weighed just a smidge over 100 tons. It was little for a locomotive, but it was the largest machine I ever hope to control.

We spent hours in the yard, practicing with the throttle, learning how much power to give in order to reach a specific spot. We controlled the location of the train exactly the way real engineers do - by manipulating the energy of the traction motors and understanding how the weight of the cars affect stopping distance.

So imagine how freaked out I was when cars crossed just yards ahead of us as we rode along on a trip out to the main line. I’d just spent the day watching a four-car train roll on at length after cutting the throttle – and occasionally stomping on a non-existent brake pedal.

My yells mixed with the train’s horn when we came across a family taking a stroll on the tracks.

“People!” I wanted to scream. “Don’t you have any sense? This train could crush you!”

I’d read many company reports about situations like this. They described people maimed and killed. Bodies mangled, pinched or struck into mist. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about the folks on the rail in front of me.

The crew of instructors noticed my horror.

“We see this every day,” they said. “People take chances like this all the time.” They don’t like to talk about the times it doesn’t end well – nightmarish incidents they were helpless to stop. When they do open up, train crews can describe every detail. They never forget the car or truck stalled on the track, the hunter who was trapped on a rail bridge, the teen listening to tunes as she walked between the rails. They don’t like to talk about it – but they do – hoping people will listen.

*** This is where I'd planned to end this blog post. Then I opened the newspaper. It's happened again. ***

In the past several weeks four Missouri teens have died in train incidents. In two separate incidents, young men did not hear the trains that killed them because their ears were filled with music and earbuds. Two young ladies perished when their car refused to start after they'd parked on the tracks at a crossing in order to spook themselves by playing out a local legend. Three tragedies and four lives ended.

Talk. Talk to teens. Talk to adults. Talk to anyone you know who walks on or around rail tracks.

Railroad tracks are not pedestrian paths. They are industrial, private property where large machines operate.
If you must cross them, cross them quickly.

Use your senses. Look for a train. Keep your ears clear so you can hear them approach. Don't ignore rumbles or vibrations.

Look. Listen. Live.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot Times

There's one thing on every Missourian's mind today - how to deal with the heat.

Many of MoDOT's employees work in all kinds of weather. Our maintenance folks are experts at staying hydrated and taking breaks when needed. One of them is very concerned for you.

Barrel Bob, Missouri's work-zone spokesbarrel wrote a little piece for our blog today. We hope you enjoy it.

Gracious, people! The last time I was this hot, I was being extruded into existence at the barrel factory! But I was designed to take these temperature extremes. I'm a bit worried about you.

Missouri's work-zone spokesbarrel, Barrel Bob,
tries to provide his own bit of shade as he urges
travelers of all stripes to take extra care in the heat
From my spot here on the side of the road, I'm seeing some folks who treated today as any normal day. They're learning it ain't when they run out of gas or deal a breakdown on the side of the highway. That's a bad deal anytime, but when the world is superheated, the misery is quadrupled!

Do me a favor. Check your car before you head out. Do you need to get gas?

How 'bout them tires? Should you stop and get air or get that slow leak fixed?

If you need to call for help, does your phone have enough juice?

When was the last time you checked the coolant?

What about coolant for your body? Stocking up with water is a good idea for all travelers - those in vehicles, motorcycles and you self-powered movers on bikes and on your feet.

These are the kind of days you learn the true condition of your vehicle. Just try not to learn it on the side of a steamy road!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bridges Bounce

The wonderful thing about bridges,
Is bridges are flexible things.
The structure is made to move up and down,
Sometimes it feels they’re on springs.
Bill Emerson Bridge in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
My apologies to Tigger and his fans. I just couldn't help myself. 

The idea for the verse popped in my head one evening as I waited for a crash to be cleared from my lane on a Missouri River bridge. As cars and commercial trucks rumbled by, I felt a bounce that was a bit unnerving. It wasn't the first time I'd felt the bounce. It happens on any type of bridge - overpasses and elevated lanes included.

Luckily, several bridge experts work just a short elevator ride from my desk. They helped me to understand that bridges are designed with some flexibility built in. They’ve got to perform in temperature extremes – contracting and expanding with cold and heat – in still and windy conditions, and under differing weight loads.

That flexibility means there will always be some movement. In fact – the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is built to swing up to 27 feet mid-span in the unlikely event of a 100 mph broadside wind!

Setting the supports for the Miami Bridge.
It's hard to understand how something that looks so stable and solid could move up and down, but have you ever walked on a board laid across two supports? The further apart the supports are, the more vibration you feel as you walk across the board. This vibration, called resonance, also plays a part in bridge movement as vehicles move across a span.

Designers and engineers have to strike a careful balance of distances and supports, because a too-stiff bridge has its own issues.

If you are ever stopped on a span and become uneasy with the bouncing movement, maybe this will help - MoDOT's bridge inspection teams, who sometimes use a special truck to view the undersides of bridges, sheepishly tell stories of seasickness suffered when they spend too much time in the bucket attached to the flexible arm of the truck parked on a bouncing bridge. They might be uncomfortable, but they’re never scared. They know why bridges bounce. And now, so do you!

Inspectors examine the underside of the
Hurricane Deck Bridge using a snooper truck.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Colorful Language

Between graduations, family reunions and “I gotta get out of town!” trips, I’ve been putting a lot of miles on the family truckster as of late.

Driving interstates, county roads, city streets and gravel paths, I’ve been advised, guided and warned by signs. Lots of signs. Signs of every color and size, it seems. I got curious, so I checked it out and found out there’s a special language to traffic signs – and you are probably fluent without even thinking about it.

Traffic signs are consistent throughout the U.S. because of a document called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It’s a required reference for traffic engineers, but not something you’d want to take for a read on the beach. The guide is managed by the Federal Highway Administration and the rules within are followed by all public and private roads open to public traffic.

So when I head to visit my bestie in Kentucky, I am assured that the stop signs there will be octagonal with white letters on a red background, just like they are here.

Color is one part of traffic sign language. Here is a list of the official colors and the meaning behind each:

Red – Stop, yield and forbidden actions such as No Parking.

Orange – Temporary traffic control zones and detours. You often see them at work zones.

Yellow – Warning. Think curves, divided highway signs and such.

Yellow-Green – This is a newer color used on all new school-related signs, such as school zone and school crosswalk signs. It can be used for bicycle and pedestrian warning signs, too.
Distance Sign

Green – Informational signs that give directions, distances and place information.

Blue – Services. These signs announce the presence of rest areas, food, hospitals, lodging and the like.

Purple – This color is used on signs intended to help guide drivers who have registered electronic toll collection accounts, such as EZPass. You’ll see these in states with toll roads.

Pink – Incident. This is a newer color in a day-glo hue. It indicates a crash or other emergency condition exists. You’ll likely see this on temporary, fabric signs deployed by emergency services like police or fire crews.

Brown – Features of interest. Brown signs direct motorists to parks, historic sites and similar sites.

Library Sign

Other parts of the MUTCD dictate sign shapes, the type font and case of letters used on signs and other traffic markings. It’s a valuable reference - kind of a grammar handbook and dictionary rolled into one…but I think I’ll grab a nice thriller for my weekend at the lake.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Designed to Be Destroyed

You know that MoDOT takes its workers' safety seriously.

Did you realize that just as much attention is given to the safety of motorists who travel in work zones?

Why else would MoDOT buy a piece of equipment which is designed to be destroyed?

MoDOT uses truck-mounted attenuators because its vehicles tend to be struck from behind in work zones. Attenuators are like giant, crushable shock absorbers. Mounted to the end of the truck and transported and folded into active position in work zones, the equipment serves as a sacrificial item to protect lives and equipment.

Say a driver is not paying attention or is forced out of his or her lane and is set to collide with a dump truck or other vehicle in a 55 mph work zone. Instead of crashing into metal vehicle, the driver hits an attenuator which  crumples, absorbing momentum and reducing the force of the impact. Damage to the driver and vehicles involved is lessened.

Sometimes, drivers walk away from these crashes. As they do so, MoDOT is able to call out for another attenuator and continue using the same dump truck.

So while all drivers are urged to pay close attention and operate safely in work zones, know that attenuators are on the job to help keep you safe...just in case.

Note: The day after this blog was posted, a commercial truck traveling on I-70 struck the TMA mounted on a MoDOT truck that was part of a crew painting stripes on the interstate. Both drivers escaped the crash with only minor injuries.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Time to Apply for the
Youth Transportation Conference

If you know a high school student that enjoys math and science, the Youth Transportation Conference may be a great way to spend a week this summer.  The free conference runs from July 15-20 in Jefferson city and includes all meals and supervised lodging.

Listen to what one parent had to say after last year's conference:

"With a little prodding from me, my son Tyler signed up for the Youth Transportation Conference last year. His guidance counselor had sent home a flyer with him because she thought it would be a good chance to channel his love of math and science toward a career goal. However, Tyler’s vision for the summer was a bit more laid back. I insisted the six days would fly by. Tyler surrendered and his application was approved a few weeks later.  Not only did Tyler have a blast with all the hands-on activities, he made some friends he’s still chatting with online. His favorite activity was the model bridge building. His team’s popsicle stick creation even held the most weight. What’s more the visit to the MU civil engineering school has put it on his short list of colleges."

Completed applications must be received by June 8.  For more details, go to http://www.modot.mo.gov/EqualOpportunity/youthcamp.htm.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Way the Pros Roll

He’s a total gearhead.

If it runs on wheels, he’ll find a way to race it.
His truck is bigger, badder and bolder than any pickup you’ll see on the highway.

Little kids look at him in awe.

Bobby Holman, owner of Team Beast and driver of the Lucas Oil Stabilizer monster truck thrills thousands in his appearances at races across the country. With 1,600 horses under the hood and 27 years of competition under his belt, the man knows what he’s doing.

Holman would never dream of starting the engine of the Stabilizer – or his family SUV – without first buckling his seat belt. He says as much in the announcement he recorded for Missouri’s motorists.

It’s the way the pros roll.

Buckle up. ARRIVE ALIVE.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Zero Tolerance, Zero Chances

It's not like it used to be.

When I was in high school, it was a regular occurance: it seemed every class had a crash story.

Each year, someone crashed on the way home from a party or event. Nearly always, they were drunk. Nearly always, other young adults in the car were, too. If we were lucky, everyone would get to go home from the hospital. That didn't always happen.

Drunk youth crashes were considered something that was inevitable.

Not anymore.

From April 30 to May 13, special resources will be focused on underaged drunk driving. Missouri law enforcement, schools and others who love teens, want to make sure Missouri youth celebrate spring, prom and graduation safely and while sober.

Though no one under 21 can legally possess or consume alcohol in Missouri, youth make up a significant proportion of drunk drivers causing crashes. From 2009-2011, 94 people were killed and 368 seriously injured crashes involving underage, drunk drivers.

Missouri has a Zero Tolerance Law. Drivers who are under 21 and caught driving with even a trace of alcohol in their systems have their license suspended. Minors in possession can lose scholarships and jobs.

Punishments can include jail time or being sentenced to use ignition interlocks. Insurance rates go up. Other financial hits include attorney fees and court costs. When family and friends find out, violators can also face tremendous personal embarrassment and humiliation.

Tell the young adults you know that special units will be out looking for drunk drivers. Ask them to program your number into their phone and to call you or another sober person to pick them up if they or their driver is in no condition to drive - no questions asked. Give them good options to protect their bright futures...or to have a future at all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Work Zone Awareness Week - Don't Barrel Through Work Zones

It is Work Zone Awareness Week.

You'll likely see news stories and hear messages about watching your speed, paying special attention and taking extra care when you see orange.

Work zones were on my mind as I traveled several hundred Missouri miles this week. What I saw was good!

When approaching a zone, I saw that motorists adjusted their speed, left room between them and the car in front of them and I didn't see a texter or cell phone using driver.


Still, a St. Louis area motorist died Friday when another motorist struck his car in a work zone, causing him to leave the road and overturn.

It only takes a split-second for a smooth trip to turn into a tragedy. And there are lots of close calls - as this video attests: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtSztiB4se8

For your safety and the safety of my coworkers, please ramp up your vigilance when traveling in a work zone and be sure to buckle up.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Respect and Remember

It's an honor, but it is a grave honor. MoDOT was selected to host the "National Work Zone Memorial - Respect and Remembrance: Reflections of Life on the Road." The traveling memorial, maintained by the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation, is a tribute to the memory of those who lost their lives in the nation's work zones - workers, drivers, passengers, police officers and emergency responders. It travels to communities year-round. The intent is to raise public awareness of the need to respect and stay safe in America's roadway work zones. The memorial will stand in the St. Louis Galleria from Tuesday, April 24 until Sunday, April 29, 2012. We don't want the memorial to be any larger when it returns to Missouri some day. Please - when you see a work zone sign - mind your speed, pay attention (turn down the tunes and put down the phone) and be alert for the unusual. To learn more about work zone safety, visit www.modot.org/workzones

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rollin' in the Green

March 29, 2012 - Near the Cole and Osage County Line. Union Pacific coal train crossing the Osage River on its way back to the Powder River Basin.

Find more transportation images through MoDOT's Flickr links - http://www.modot.org/flickr/

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pickups Rock!

I have always owned a car. From my high school hatchback days to today's SUV, I've operated in a certain level of comfort. But it is no secret that I dream of owning a big, old beater truck someday - a vehicle I could wash with a garden hose - inside and out!

These past couple of weeks, I've tooled around in my brother-in-law's retired work truck, hauling mass quantities of mulch for my spring yardwork. It's been a slice of heaven.

I insert the key in the door and unlock this treasure. Climbing in, I'm careful not to disturb the lacy rust on the bottom of the quarter panel.

I love the metal-on-metal screech of joy, followed by the satisfying thud when pulling the driver's door closed. Sitting on the seat covered bench, I roll the window down (with a crank!), fire him up (I've decided the truck is definitely male) and turn up the radio. The radio pulls in three stations - all on the AM dial. All talk radio.

If only the truck had standard transmission. Then it would be perfect.

But before I put him into gear, I reach over, grab the strap and buckle up.

Because at 170,000 miles, this truck is barely into its adulthood. There are many sister-in-law mooch miles ahead ... unless we crash.

In that case, I want to be in the protective embrace of his safety cage rather than tossed about inside - or thrown out to fend for myself against the pavement.

Besides, I like to think that through the hug of the safety belt, the truck returns my love.

Pickups rock. They also roll.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Look Before You Book

There’s more to consider than price and convenience when buying a ticket or hiring a bus company for your group’s travel. A new SaferBus free app from the USDOT lets you check bus companies' safety records before you book a trip.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration developed the app to give consumers easy access to 24 months of safety performance data for companies they might hire. The app provides the carriers’ performance information based on unsafe driving, fatigued driving, driver fitness, controlled substance/alcohol and vehicle maintenance violations. The higher the percentage in any category, the higher the potential safety risk.

Another indicator, FMCSA safety ratings are also accessible through the app. The top rating is Satisfactory. Bus companies with a Conditional rating may pose a higher safety risk, and companies with an Unsatisfactory rating should NOT be operating.

Keep your field trips, fun runs and vacations safe. Visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus before booking a bus.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kindergarten Pain

A post by Kelly Martin, MoDOT Community Relations Specialist

It’s what I’ve called “the kindergarten pain” for over 13 years. You know it, that sharp, gut wrenching pain you experience at many points in your life as a parent. The first one (and I hadn’t properly termed it at the time) happened on the first day I dropped my son off at daycare. It was just his first step toward independence, making decisions on his own. Would he share, would he care? I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

The second time, and when I termed the phrase, was of course the day he started kindergarten. He proudly placed his backpack in his cubby and took his seat, ready to take on the world. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out. One more step toward his independence.

The third time I remember this pain was the day he obtained his driver’s license, and I watched him pull away from the curb by himself. Although this time there was no one there to help him in my absence, no one to tie his shoe or remind him of his manners or help him to keep his place in line. I could only pray that what I had taught him by example would pay off and his safety would be the reward. I waved goodbye, walked to the car and bawled my eyes out.

Only 67 percent of Missouri’s teens are wearing their seatbelts. This leaves a third of our most inexperienced drivers in a most vulnerable position. Combine this statistic with the distractions that our teens now have at their disposal (OMG!) and you have a recipe for disaster.

With efforts being made through every avenue available, I can only ask myself as a safety advocate and parent, “Why aren’t they getting the message?” Does this message start at home, in school, by law enforcement, or at their first serious injury or fatality crash? Let’s pray it’s started at home, that lives are saved and the kindergarten pain will continue for generations to come.

I again experienced the kindergarten pain at his high school graduation, and am hoping the next ones will be at his college graduation, marriage, and birth of my first grandchild (hopefully in that order). Regardless, I’m sure I will wave goodbye, walk to the car and bawl my eyes out. Like I did when he drove his girlfriend to prom.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of people age 15-20. Somewhere today there is a parent experiencing the kindergarten pain as they leave a cemetery after burying their teen from an unbelted fatal car crash. They will wave goodbye, walk to their car and bawl their eyes out.

Parents, love your children. Children, love your parents. Seat belts are your best defense in any automobile accident. Buckle Up and ARRIVE ALIVE.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bridge Building Ballet

Imagine trying to build an overpass above one of central Missouri's busiest highways. You'd have to lift long, heavy steel beams across two lanes of highway and affix them to supports while imposing the least possible impact to traffic.

It takes a lot of choreography among people who can move quickly and easily amid seeming chaos. It's a lot like a large-ensemble ballet. And the professionals who set the first four beams for the U.S. 63/Route H overpass in Boone County are virtuoso.

In dance, timing is everything. In this case, everything was timed. The crews' arrival, the delivery of individual beams, the traffic interruptions. Everything had to happen in the correct order.

The beams arrived individually and each was connected to a crane

which hoisted them into place as a captive audience of travelers watched a few minutes of the performance.

Once the beams were aligned safely on the piers, traffic began to move below as carpenters and welders affixed the steel.

Meanwhile, another beam arrived on-site and the dance repeated until all were in place.

Soon, the completed overpass will be just another piece of the local landscape, but several groups of travelers will be able to say they saw this vital movement in the creation of a bridge. Thanks again, U.S. 63 motorists, for your patience!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tidy Roadsides

Three weeks. Just three more weeks until the official start of spring.

SPRING! Just typing or saying the word aloud makes me happy - even though that word is often followed by one of my least favorite terms - cleaning.

The results are always worth the work, though. And it's just about time for travelers to spot Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway volunteers hard at work tidying up the state, kicking off the program's 25th year!

More than 4,000 groups care for 6,281 miles. They sign up to pick up at least one-half mile of urban roadside or two miles or rural road, collecting litter at least four times a year. Doing so, they save taxpayers $1 million and get some good exercise.

Civic groups, schools, scouts, clubs and other organizations receive recognition for their work on blue Adopt-A-Highway roadside signs. Several families choose to make their effort a living memorial. Companies can choose the Sponsor-A-Highway option in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas and receive roadside recognition for their contributions.

Litter pick-up isn't the only kind of adoption. Some folks sign up to mow roadsides and other groups landscape with native wildflowers and grasses. The landscapers work in concert with MoDOT and the Missouri Department of Conservation to choose plants that have the best chance to survive, support wildlife and provide extra benefits such as erosion control.

If you are interested in joining our valued volunteers or beautifying businesses, learn more about the programs at http://www.modot.org/services/community/adoptahighway.htm

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is It Time for "The Talk"?

The day is coming faster than I want it to come.

I'll have to sit her down and have "the talk."

It will be awkward. I'm going to stumble over my words. I'll need to be ready for any emotional outbursts. But it's all a part of life and I have to accept that.

"Mom," I'll say. "How do you feel about your driving? Do you think you're still a safe motorist?"

She's already cut back on her nighttime driving. It makes her uncomfortable. So her friends or one of my family members take the wheel instead.

The day she hands over the keys for good will be tough on this very independent lady, but she sees it coming, too.

"The last thing I want," she says, "is to hurt someone because I caused a crash."

Older drivers are the subject of a MoDOT-sponsored gathering this week. Experts from around the state will discuss the road safety needs of our aging population.

On their minds is this fact: Although drivers 65 and older account for eight percent of all miles driven, they comprise 17 percent of traffic fatalities.

We've got a lot of company in addressing the issues. A report released today from TRIP, a transportation research group, describes the efforts of state departments of transportation to address older drivers.

TRIP reports that the growing ranks of older Americans "will far outpace previous generations with their level of ability and activity. Serving their needs will require a transportation system that includes safer roads, safer vehicles and improved choices."

Visit http://www.savemolives.com/older-driver.html now and in the months to learn more and to find tools to help older drivers you know and love.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What's In A Name? US 71 to Become I-49

MoDOT is preparing for final projects in the transformation of U.S. Route 71 from national highway to interstate standards. Why?

The change will increase economic opportunities for Missouri and enhance the safety of travelers.

When businesses consider locating in Missouri, one of the first factors they consider is access to quality transportation. Preference is given to locations that are near to interstate highways. The I-49 designation will ensure this factor is not an obstacle for the communities along the corridor between Kansas City and Joplin. Plus, the I-49 designation benefits Kansas City’s development as an “inland port” for the flow of freight throughout the country.

Traffic on the US 71 corridor between Kansas City and Joplin already consists of 30 percent trucks. The route connects Kansas City's interstates with Interstate 44. As freight volumes are expected to increase, we believe upgrading U.S. 71 to interstate standards makes sense.

Future projects in Arkansas are expected to complete I-49's path from New Orleans to Kansas City, making road transport of freight to and from the Port of New Orleans more efficient. This has exciting implications.

In 2014, the expansion of the Panama Canal will be complete. Super container ships that are now unable to squeeze through the canal will be able to bring their cargo into the Port of New Orleans. The drive from New Orleans to Kansas City is shorter than the drive from the west coast ports, so the cost to bring goods to the midwest should fall. That's good news for consumers.

The transformation is more than just a name change. In order to be classified as an interstate, a route must meet stringent requirements. U.S. 71 largely met the requirements from Kansas City to Missouri's southern border. However, because no at-grade intersections are allowed on an interstate, several interchanges were either built or are underway. Intersections with ramps and overpasses are much safer than those that occur at-grade (without overpasses or underpasses). They virtually eliminate T-bone-type crashes.

We believe the investment made to transform U.S. 71 into Interstate 49 will pay off both economically and in safety for Missourians in decades to come.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Except on the Third Tuesday of the Month

Okay, I admit it. Sometimes I include waaaaay to much detail in the pieces I write. I've learned to write, walk away and come back to edit later - saving many forests worth of trees in the process.

I bet the person or group who ordered this sign for a school zone in Oakland County, Michigan wishes for a do-over with the editing pen. Maybe stating that the 25 mph limit applied from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. would get the point across better.

Thanks to ABC news for the photo.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile

Today's Wall Street Journal included an article about cars that have touchscreen technology, Internet access and Twitter functionality built in.

It's interesting how quickly we've gone from, "No, he's on his way to Springfield. I'll call that office and ask them to give him a note to call you." to folks scheduling conference calls during drive time and parents texting kids from parking lots.

Having phone and computer access on the road makes handling work and family business more efficient. The safety aspects continue to be debated.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Digging for a Story

When I first started at MoDOT, I was surprised to hear someone say they’d spoken with “one of our archaeologists”.


MoDOT is about highways and bridges, airports and barges, bikes, walkers, transit and the like. What was this nonsense about archeologists on staff?

I soon learned that historical research is a vital part of receiving federal funding and permits for construction and building projects. Funds aren’t approved until MoDOT proves it complies with the National Historic Preservation Act.

Tim Porter and Brianne Greenwood work in MoDOT’s Historic Preservation unit. You can think of them as cold-case detectives. They piece together the stories of people and activities from prehistoric times to near-current day periods.

Last week, we found Tim processing artifacts excavated in St. Louis prior to the start of the earthwork for a new Interstate 70 Mississippi River bridge.

The excavated areas were formerly residential, commercial and industrial in nature. Evidence of foundries, factories, homes and parks was uncovered. Some artifacts, like the bottle and china doll pictured here, were brought back to the office for further study.

Piece by piece, Tim and his colleagues are telling the story of those who lived and worked in the area during the 1800s and early 1900s. Find some of those stories here: http://www.modot.org/ehp/sites/NewMissRiverProject.htm

Brianne is helping to process artifacts recovered from two sites near the 80-year old North River Bridge west of Palmyra.

The bridge, located on Route 168, is to be replaced this spring. Because it and the nearby archaeological sites are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, data must be collected before construction could start.

Excavations at a site southeast of the old bridge believed to be dated 3000 to 1000 B.C. – known as the Late Archaic period – yielded evidence of people considered to be hunters and gatherers who did not raise crops.

A more recent encampment site located north of Route 168 dated between 500 and 850 A.D. Here, evidence was found of groups of people living in structures much like wigwams, indicating they did not move around as much.

Learn more about the work near the North River Bridge here:

Many thanks to Tana Akright for her contributions to this blog post.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Instilling Skills

Aaron Cox instructs MoDOT’s construction and maintenance employees on the finer points of their jobs. He takes care of workers when they are new on the job and when it’s time to review and renew their skills.

Lately, he’s had every five-year old boy’s dream job – crawling around big dump trucks while instructing the folks who drive them for MoDOT on how to conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection.

Inspections help identify defects before they become problems.

Just like commercial truck drivers, our folks check headlamps, signals, tires, mechanical and braking systems and such for anything that’s not just right before and after every trip. Aaron reminds employees to monitor the performance and handling of the truck on the road, too.

If they find a hint of a problem, mechanics can take care of it before it becomes expensive to repair or, more importantly, before it results in a crash.

He knows that by keeping our vehicles in good shape, our workers can help folks that share the highways with our big yellow trucks to ARRIVE ALIVE.

The little boy that lives inside Aaron thinks that’s way cool.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tweets from the Passenger Seat

This morning, MoDOT Customer Relations Manager Marisa Ellison hopped in the passenger seat of one of our snowplows and gave a running commentary of what she saw in the Hannibal area via Twitter. Here's her account:

Snow plowing is serious business, so when I mentioned to Maintenance Superintendent Butch Mundle I wanted to tweet from a snow plow, he humored me.

Jamie Gottman was my capable snow “chauffeur,” and we took out onto US 61 north of Palmyra January 12 at 7 a.m. Snow was flying, wind blowing, and it was downright cold. Not in the plow, though. I could safely “tweet” the experience in a comfortable, heated setting while listening to country music on the radio. I tried not to distract Jamie; he was excellent at paying attention - and you have to be in a snow plow. I tweeted “there are several controls used in the cab, such as one for the gears, one for the blade, and one for the wing plow.” I forgot to mention the spreader control panel on the dashboard that distributes salt and other chemicals from the bed of the dumptruck. Jamie never missed a beat, or an intersection, or a shoulder.

We saw several accidents, which wasn’t surprising considering it was the first time many drivers had been in snow this year. I tweeted about one accident, which had traffic backed up, then tweeted about the next accident right up the road. Emergency responders had their work cut out for them in the frigid temps. But so did Jamie. Because the crashes caused traffic to stop, the unused lanes ahead were quickly covered by snow. Then it started snowing harder. Jamie made quick work of those flakes.

Soon, he asked if I was ready to go back to the office, and I was. Tweeting for two hours could have been challenging, yet Jamie and our surroundings kept it interesting. MoDOT's regional and statewide Twitter accounts pick up dozens of new followers with each winter weather event and this morning was no exception. I hope our followers found the tweets from a snowplow as educational as I did.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Masters of the Elements

It was made apparent to me in my high school days that a career in chemistry was far beyond my reach. I’m thankful I had that epiphany before any real damage was done to the school or my classmates.

Yet I’ve always been fascinated by the folks that understand the functioning of the elements. This week, John Bell and Tracy Adams, two of MoDOT’s senior chemists were hard at work, coaxing chemicals to provide answers we need to build the best possible transportation system.

John worked on an emulsion distillation. Yes. John has a still…at work. Only this still removes water from an asphalt emulsion so he can test the properties of the asphalt residue that remains. It’s got to meet stringent requirements to be accepted for use in road building and maintenance. By the way, he does not recommend drinking the results of the distillation. Ewww.

Tracy used three solutions to calibrate the pH meter before testing rock samples submitted as potential backfill material on an upcoming project. Her testing would reveal whether the acidity/basic level of the minerals in the rock will interact well with all of the other materials used on the project. Yes, road building needs to be that scientific – if you want highways, runways and other structures to last.

It’s always interesting to peek around the corner and see who does what at MoDOT. What wonder will we find next? Check back to find out!