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Please feel free to ask questions, express concerns or offer suggestions. MoDOT will make a concerted effort to offer a reply to all reasonable comments to the blog. Comments will be screened by MoDOT, and those comments which do not meet up with MoDOT's blog use policy will not be posted.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Littering is a growing problem - It's time to change that

By Assistant District Engineer Mark Croarkin




Trash on our state roads and/or right-of-way is a growing problem in Missouri. It impairs public health, pollutes the environment and can even lead to crashes on the highways.


Each year, MoDOT spends more than $5 million to clear litter along Missouri highways. In the St. Louis region, over the past few years there has been a significant increase in the volume of trash left on our roadway system.


Cleaning the trash off the highways has become an issue that maintenance crews alone cannot keep under control.  There has been one instance where crews from a single maintenance building picked up more than 1300 bags of trash in one week. To offset that, MoDOT offers an Adopt-A-Highway program that provides volunteers the opportunity to select an area that they will commit to pick up litter at least four times a year. 


Everyone can make a difference by educating friends, neighbors and co-workers. Loose trash is more likely to end up on the roadways than bagged trash. Simple acts such as bagging trash at home, work or community events can account to saving millions of dollars and a far more attractive region.


When driving, never let trash escape from the car. Keep it contained in a bag inside of the vehicle. Help create a culture where people speak up when they see someone with loose trash or an unsecured load on a truck.


Littering is illegal and law enforcement is on the watch out for offenders. The act can lead to a class A misdemeanor with a $1000 fine and up to one year imprisonment.


Come and join the journey to making a cleaner and healthier Missouri by eliminating litter. For more information on how to get involved, please visit www.nomoretrash.org.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Road Damage Claims - Not Just from Potholes

By Keri Essien
Senior Risk Management Technician




Potholes, debris and aliens – oh my! Those are just some of the damage claims turned into the MoDOT St. Louis risk management department.  The department receives between four and 30 claims a day for incidents on Missouri roads.  The common complaints damage caused by potholes, road debris, falling signs, signal malfunctions and wet striping paint but one of the more bizarre cases involved a customer who reported an unidentified flying object struck her vehicle on an open stretch of I-70 in 2016.  MoDOT unfortunately had to deny any liability for the phenomenon.


 


MoDOT’s liability is based on Missouri Revised Statute 537.600 which states MoDOT is not legally liable for a hazard unless it had sufficient time and knowledge to have taken measures to protect against it.  In other words, MoDOT must determine an accident was caused by willful negligence in order for a customer to be reimbursed for expenses.  In 2017, MoDOT paid   approximately $3.2 million for 222 claims statewide.


 


Most people are surprised to learn they have the right to file claims for damage.  The claims process reflects MoDOT’s transparent approach to customer service.  Claims can be filed online and are analyzed, processed and submitted to a Jefferson City claims adjuster for investigation.  Customers usually receive a response within 48 hours.  The one difference is for claims in construction zones, which are sent to the contractor for investigation.


 


As long as there are roads and customers to travel on them, we can assume that liability claims will keep life at MoDOT busy and a little amusing.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Avoid distractions and buckle up when driving through work zones.

Mark Fresen, a former MoDOT employee struck and injured in a work zone on I-270, speaks at the 2018 Work Zone Awareness Week kickoff event in St. Louis.

By Tom Blair, P.E.
MoDOT St. Louis District Engineer


(April 8-14 is National Work Zone Awareness Week, a campaign to remind drivers to slow down and avoid distractions while driving through any work zone.)


It’s spring in St. Louis.  It’s been a wild ride this year – In the last month, we had a lot of rain, followed by a snow or two in April. Despite the weather, we have a lot of work zones this year, and many of them are along the I-44 corridor.


We have a lot of work scheduled on I-44 and several other roadways this year, and we want to make sure people remember that they need to pay attention every time they travel through one.  It is easy to become complacent when we drive through a work zone every day, but we really shouldn’t.  Work zones can change – from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next.


And it doesn’t matter which side of the river you are on – when it comes to work zones, whether you are in Illinois or Missouri, we are all on the same team.  No one wins if there is a crash in a work zone. For the past year, MoDOT has been encouraging drivers to wear their seat belt and put down their phone while driving.  Both of these habits can help keep you, and us, safer as you drive, especially when you travel with work zones. I encourage you strongly to take the Buckle Up/Phone Down Challenge. 


We’ll have work zones on almost every interstate this year. We have work on I-44 from the Poplar Street Bridge all the way to the Crawford County line, including several bridges in and just outside St. Louis City.  We also have a major project coming up on I-270 near I-70 that will require several lanes to be closed around the clock. At night, we’ll have resurfacing projects on I-270 and on I-44.  You can see more specifics on some of the biggest work zones this year here by clicking this link.


Paying attention to work zones is important because it helps prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities. For instance, in the last year:


  • In 2017, 13 people  were killed in work zone crashes on state roads and an additional three on local roads, for a total of 16 fatalities. One  of those fatalities was in St. Louis.
  • Between 2012 and 2017, 50 people were killed in work zone crashes on state roads and an additional six on local roads, for a total of 43 fatalities. 11 of them were in the St. Louis area.
  • Between 2012 and 2017, 2,844 people were injured in Missouri work zones on state roads and an additional 965 on local roads, for a total of 3,809 injuries.
  • Since 2000, 19 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty, 13 in work zones.
  • The best defense in a work zone crash, or any crash, is a seat belt. In 2017, nearly two-thirds of the people who were killed in crashes were NOT wearing a seat belt.


We believe that one fatality on Missouri roads is too many, but we cannot reach our goal of zero roadway deaths by ourselves. We need your help.


As you are driving, please watch out for us. If you see flashing lights ahead of you, please be prepared to slow down or move over. Many of work zones on our roads are the short-term work zones where our crews are repairing roadways, patching potholes, mowing or cleaning trash.  These slow-moving work zones can show up on almost any roadway at almost any time.  These operations travel at about 10 miles per hour. You can quickly approach a lane closed for road work if you aren’t paying attention.


Our crews work hard to help keep you safe. By slowing down and moving over, you can help keep us safe.  We are all in this together – together we can ensure drivers on both sides of the river and our crews – go home safely at the end of every day.


You can also help by using the Traveler Information Map before you travel, and by filling out our on-line work zone report cards to let crews know how they’re doing. Work Zone Awareness is about keeping MoDOT crews and motorists safe.


 


Monday, March 19, 2018

Construction, construction -- everywhere construction!


Construction on the I-64 bridge over the Mississippi River.
By Michael Castro
St. Louis District Construction and Materials Engineer
So, it’s spring, and construction work zones are springing up on surrounding roads like crabgrass in your lawn – and are almost as welcome.
As we move into the construction season, especially when there are projects that have stopped through the winter, one of the big questions the department is often asked is “why can’t you finish one project before you start another?”
There are several reasons, but the two biggest ones are keeping up with roadway maintenance needs and money.
With more than 33,000 miles of roadway in Missouri and about 1,600 miles of roadway in St. Louis (most of which have multiple lanes), there simply is too much maintenance that would need to be done to keep the roadway in good, safe operational condition without working in several locations.
But as importantly, it would be an ineffective use of the construction forces in the area, and would drive up the cost of construction significantly.
You see, most of the day to day repairs on the roadway – pothole patching, signal or sign repairs and the like – are done with MoDOT maintenance teams.  However, MoDOT typically designs major construction projects and then puts them out for bid to the contracting community – a process called design-bid-build.  MoDOT simply doesn’t have all the specialized equipment needed to complete major construction.  Having several projects working at the same time means that contractor equipment and workers that aren’t needed for one project can move to another and help the construction contractors stay efficient.  Most construction projects have a specific path of construction that needs to be completed – you can’t place the driving surface for a roadway before you have completed the necessary repairs to the support network and fill underneath the roadway.
All construction projects have impacts, and MoDOT does attempt to minimize those impacts as much as possible – or use the impacts from one project to help reduce the impacts of another.  A good example is the work along I-44 in and near St. Louis City.   The bridge repair work between Grand and Kingshighway reduces traffic to three lanes on westbound I-44.  Lane merging causes a significant amount of congestion around construction.  So, having one lane merge back here improves the safety and reduces congestion between the two work zones. However, the department works very hard to avoid putting additional construction on surrounding routes that people may use to detour around the work or the congestion.
There are more impacts from construction than just congestion, especially in an urban area.  Light and sound around construction zones are very impactful in a residential neighborhood.  Working around the clock on construction may save time, but it usually is more expensive (because of the hazards of working at night, even under lights) and the impacts on the community.  MoDOT does look at working at night – especially when the traffic impacts may need to be significant (such as interstate resurfacing work), but that does have to be balanced with the costs, and the impact to the surrounding residents.
The primary goal in all of this is to ensure that all Missourians have a safe and operational transportation system, while still being good stewards of the funding that Missouri has entrusted to the department.
While driving through work zones, remember to slow down to the posted speed limits, avoid distractions – especially cell phones, wear your seat belt and pay attention to the signs around the construction.
 
 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Work along I-44 to significantly impact commuting traffic through St. Louis City

Construction in the St. Louis City area that is among the work that will be impacting travel along the I-44 corridor for the next year.
Note:  This is a revitalization of the Missouri Department of Transportation, St. Louis area, blog.  At this point, we are anticipating sharing a new blog item about every two weeks on topics of general transportation interest.  If you have an item you would like to have considered for discussion, please feel free to let us know. 
By Tom Blair, MoDOT St. Louis District Engineer:
It’s spring in St. Louis, which means that the delays commuters experience from snow, ice or other incidents is replaced by those from construction.
This year in St. Louis is no different with several dozen construction projects underway, ranging from signal replacements to interstate river bridge replacements.
This work is all a part of taking care of the system – making sure that the 6,800 miles of state roadway in the St. Louis area remains safe and in good condition.  It’s somewhat similar to the regular maintenance that homeowners get used to as part of taking care of their property.
And like that maintenance, sometimes the impacts can be inconvenient, especially on the interstates, multiplied by the thousands of vehicles that use the roadway daily.
So what can you expect for the next year, and where do we anticipate some of the larger delays may be?
Drivers who currently use the I-44 corridor to travel or as part of your commute will have the most impacts in the 2018 construction season. Several projects along the corridor – both in the city and in St. Louis County, are expected to have around-the-clock lane closures
We have several projects along the I-44 corridor – from the Mississippi River all the way out to the Crawford County line.  Two of them – the bridge replacement near Shrewsbury and the bridge work between Kingshighway and 39th Street in St. Louis City – will have a very large impact on travel into and through the St. Louis City area.  In fact, work will start the week of March 5 on the I-44 bridge project at Shrewsbury. Crews will close two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane and will shift traffic from the eastbound to the westbound lanes. If traffic levels continue as they are today, that will mean long delays during peak traffic times, especially westbound. We encourage drivers that regularly use that section of I-44 to start looking at some of their other options now.  For some, adjusting the time of their commute may be an option, or talking to their company about telecommuting options.  Others may want to consider alternate routes to get around the construction.  For others, using ride-sharing, carpooling or transit options may be the best choice. Drivers need to make their decision now about what their choice will be to avoid the possible backups and congestion
As we determine what work needs to be done in the region, we look at the bridge and roadway conditions and we prioritize the work, scheduling the needed work based on what funding we are projecting for the year.  That means that we tend to focus on one corridor for a long period of time.  I-44 is more than 50 years old, and most interstate roadways/bridges have an expected lifespan of about 50 years. 
We understand the frustration with lane closures and congestion;  the less we try to impact the traveling public (with lane closures and the like), the longer projects take.  We try to ensure that we get as much traffic through as we can, but we also encourage drivers to consider options, where they can use them.  That is one of the reasons we started sharing information about impacts as early as we did – to be open about what drivers can expect, so they can make the choices that work best for them.
To stay informed, the department has several avenues where drivers can get information about upcoming lane closures and impact in the St. Louis area.  We put out a work zone report every Wednesday afternoon detailing work for the next week.  We also share information on social media – namely Twitter (@MoDOT_StLouis) and Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/MoDOT-St-Louis-286948911751/).  People can sign up for the e-update lists of our larger projects –such as the Poplar Street Bridge and I-44 work at Shrewsbury. You can find out more information on projects in the greater St. Louis area at http://www.modot.org/stlouis/. Finally, people can check out information on our Traveler Information Map: http://traveler.modot.org/map/index.html.


Monday, August 17, 2015

MoDOT investigates history at base of PSB ramps

MoDOT preservation specialists participate in a study of an area in downtown St. Louis

ST. LOUIS --He’s not Indiana Jones, but he’s MoDOT’s closest thing to it.

     Instead of the distinctive fedora and leather jacket, he jauntily sports a bright yellow hard hat and florescent work vest.
     And fortunately, the most dangerous thing around him is the noise from the nearby trains and the occasional passing tractor trailer truck.
     But like the famed fictional archeologist, Michael Meyer found himself intrigued and excited by history at a young age.
     “I have never grown up – this is something I wanted to do as a kid. I have a job that fascinates and intrigues me. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
     Meyer leads a team of preservation specialists for the department who are currently investigating a portion of cleared land between several elevated railroad tracks and the Poplar Street Bridge.  They are preserving a portion of St. Louis history that may be impacted by next year’s construction to widen the ramp from northbound I-55 to the eastbound bridge.
    “What we do is more than archeology – we are tasked to consider how our projects may impact the history the general public wishes to preserve,” said Meyer.
     That “tasking” is due to the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  The act instructs organizations involved in construction to consider the impact that work may have on historic areas, such as the downtown St. Louis area.
     In many cases, MoDOT’s historic preservation office works with the design team to adjust projects to avoid an impact to a historic site.  In others, such as this one, where it is impossible to move the bridge or the ramps, the office sets out to investigate and document historical areas to ensure the information is preserved for future  generations and for additional study.
     In the specific area where Meyer and his four person team are investigating – a mid-19th century settler’s home constructed over a mid-18th century French settler.
      “We were able to determine through a records search that a French soldier built a home here in about 1765. Then, about the mid-1860s an American settler built a three story home in about the same location.  We wanted to see what we could find of both homes. This was a very significant historical site and potentially a fragile one. Most of the earth over the site was about one to two feet deep. So, there was a distinct possibility that historical features could be damaged by something as simple as a loaded truck driving over the area,” said Meyer.
      Finding the home from the 1860s was easy, Meyer said. They were able to find clear evidence of the 18th century French soldier’s home as well. French construction at the time used a process called “post-in-earth,” where the builder digs and trench and places vertical walls in that trench – somewhat like a log cabin with vertical logs instead of horizontal. The preservation team was able to locate and identify the distinctive footprint of the “post-in-earth” trenches, despite the challenges the terrain and time have taken.
      Meyer reads the patterns and lines of earth in the dig site like most people read a map. He points out features of the two homes based on a different shade or type of earth that has been uncovered. Most of the time, he is excited about the history that those shades or types of earth represent. That is, until he points to several thick, darker lines of earth that cut across the area that he identifies as looter’s trenches. 
     “That was where collectors dug up the area about six or seven years ago looking for bottles to ‘preserve’ them. About the same time, a historical building was demolished in the area and they probably decided to come here and look for bottles.  They may be preserving history, but are disturbing a much more important historical site to find something commonplace. In doing so, they make it harder to interpret what happened in the past,” Meyer said.
     The team has also found some evidence of prehistoric cultures – mostly chert flakes from tools. Meyer believes that the tools may have been discarded as the hunter-gatherers moved from their settlements in the north to a creek entering the Mississippi River in the south.
     This work complements work done before around the area.  Meyer says the team is creating a database of property around the St. Louis area from the French Colonial time.
     “We have contributed to creating a small picture of the colonial era in St. Louis. We’ve looked at houses, outbuildings and other buildings that give us a broader view of life in colonial St. Louis. Different buildings, different status – merchants, solders and the like which give us a better understanding of life as St. Louis was colonized. This is important because we need to understand where we came from,” said Meyer.
     “Historically, people settle and travel around the area for the same reasons then as we do now.  It’s important to study how people dealt with the same problems in the past – infrastructure, bridges, sewer systems. We make a mistake if we don’t take a look at how people in the past solved the same problems we face.”
     In this case, Meyer hopes that the work that he does will be part of a greater study of the area.
     “It’s a challenge to find something new to build on what we’ve learned before – and it’s exhilarating to find something new that challenges what we thought we knew before.”


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

MoDOT launches new, improved Gateway Guide

It’s been a long time coming, but the new, improved MoDOT Gateway Guide is here.

Now, like many people, when I hear new and improved, my cynical nature kicks in and I wonder if I am going to be the butt of some cosmic marketing joke where someone added a fragrance to some product just so they can say it's "new and improved." Though adding a scratch and sniff element to the MoDOT Gateway Guide website is an interesting thought – perhaps new car? – there’s more to the website’s improvement than a few cosmetic changes.

The biggest change is to the camera views – right now, all 300 cameras are available for viewing on-line. Although every camera can't be on the home page, users can now select the route they want and see all the available cameras. Viewers have the option of viewing a still image or a 60-second live view updated every two seconds. The map for the camera is zoomable, which makes grabbing the camera icons easier and the new highway snapshots gives users a quick view of all the cameras along one roadway.

Another major change is My STL Traffic. This program will allow you to subscribe to a set of roadways between certain times and on certain days to get information on roadway closures on the routes you take to work, to school or on your day to day activities. You can sign up for either e-mail or text alerts, or view information on your mobile phone. You can also be notified if the roadway is completely closed at any time.

Although behind the scenes, another huge improvement is the web site’s compatibility. The old site was optimized for Internet Explorer, so all the people who liked other web browsers had two choices:

1) Use a browser they didn’t care for, or
2) Use their browser, but lose some significant functions (like the minimal zoom function)

About 35 percent of our users chose the second option, using their browser despite the stilted functioning of the website. That, however, is a thing of the past, as the new Gateway Guide is compatible with the other common, popular browsers.

There’s many other improvements to check out on the updated MoDOT Gateway Guide. The new website is updated to give users a better view of the roadways before, or as, they travel to allow them to avoid congestion. This keeps traffic safer and keeps our air cleaner. We’d love to have you take a look and let us know what you think, or what we might be able to improve. Check out the new website, take our survey and tell us what you think. If it’s been a while since you’ve gone to MoDOT Gateway Guide, please give it another try. It’s new and improved, although without the new car smell.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations