Ground rules and disclaimer

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, July 24, 2009

Saving money, one project at a time

MoDOT has found a silver lining in the dark cloud of the economic decline. The department has seen a decline of revenue in the past year since people are less likely to drive long distances or buy new vehicles. Since the department relies on gas taxes, registration fees and vehicle taxes for funding to maintain and build roads and bridges.

Fortunately, last fiscal year, in St. Louis, the department saved $33 million in its construction budget -- nearly 24 percent of what was budgeted for the year. These savings will be rolled back into other construction projects -- allowing the department to complete more work for you.

One of the more successful methods of reducing costs is what the department calls practical design. This method takes a look at making sure that transportation projects are fixing specific needs, rather than putting in unneeded "frills." Another extensively used method brings contractors into the design process early to let them propose innovative methods to complete the work. So far, we've seen proposals involving alternate materials, varied designs and revised schedules.

All in all, by aggressively managing projects to get them completed on time and under budget, MoDOT continues to try to meet its commitments to the Missouri taxpayers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Implementing a Travel Safe Zone

Monday, MoDOT implemented a Travel Safe Zone on eastbound I-64 between Mason Road and Ballas Road.

MoDOT implements Travel Safe Zones on those stretches of highway that significantly exceed the number of crashes with fatalities or disabling injuries when compared with similar highways with comparable traffic counts. The department uses a formula to determine a crash rate, based on the length of the stretch of highway, the number of crashes and the daily traffic on that highway.

In this case, there were 443 crashes over the last three years on eastbound I-64 in this area, including 180 crashes in 2008. Of those 443 crashes in the past three years, there were nine major crashes. In those nine major crashes, there were four fatalities and 33 people who received disabling injuries. Additionally, 295 of the 443 crashes were rear-end crashes, primarily during the day when the road was dry and the sky was clear. This tends to indicate excessive speed along the route, or distracted driving.

One of the public concerns we have heard about the Travel Safe Zone is that it is at the request of the local municipalities to increase their revenues. This is completely false – MoDOT initiated the Travel Safe Zone and MoDOT gets NO money from traffic tickets written along state routes. This is truly a safety issue. Our hope is to have people increase their safety awareness in this area, slow down and pay attention.

Currently, this Travel Safe Zone will remain in operation for a year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Variable Speed Limits – What’s the deal?

MoDOT is currently in a two-year study on the use and effectiveness of Variable Speed Limits (where traffic engineers raise and lower the speed limits based on how fast traffic is moving). Since the project was implemented in May 2008, the department has surveyed drivers and collected speed data. The media is reporting on preliminary findings of that survey (which include the fact that at this point, law enforcement and drivers are not convinced of its effectiveness).

As one of the people sitting in on developing the criteria for the study, I have to admit that this was completely expected. One of the items I hoped to see as part of the study was a change in public opinion through the two-year project. This is a brand-new idea to the St. Louis area -- using variable speeds to manage the volume of traffic flow through congested areas is completely new, and people don’t like change they don’t completely understand.

This early data from this study helps MoDOT determine what it’s doing correctly and what it isn’t. For instance, one of the big areas that drivers and law enforcement both stress is that they don’t believe the public is as informed as they need to be about how variable speed limits work. That’s a great point, and something that MoDOT (and I) need to look at. So – we have a website that talks about how the project works, we have a flyer that we handed out, and we’ve put spots in the media. What else do you suggest? I’ll consider any reasonable request (especially if it’s cheap (since we are a state agency.))

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Congratulations to new journeyman graduates

It's been a while since I've posted out here, and it's been a busy month. However, that is no excuse for not sharing through our blog format.

However, I got some news recently that I think is fantastic (and not just because I have to say that since I am a spokesperson for MoDOT.)

The I-64 project is about setting new methods of achieving goals, and looking for ways that we, as a community, can get the right things done. And though it may not be as celebrated as reopening half of the roadway on time, I think the I-64 team has just reached another important goal.

As you may remember, we helped train a number of socially or economically disadvantaged individuals in pre-apprentice programs and then get apprenticeship training on the I-64 project. The first five have completed their apprenticeships and are now journeymen (or should that be journeypersons...?) Although I didn't work through the construction industry, I was in the military, and I know how I felt after about four years of hard work when I officially completed an apprenticeship. These five people (two carpenters, a mason, and two laborers) have every reason to be proud of their efforts.

We have 12 more people who should complete their requirements for journeyman status before the end of the I-64 project. Congratulations to the recent journeyman graduates and good luck in the future!

You can read more at our website.

Andrew Gates

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Roads are much improved, thanks to taxpayers

Taypayers can thank their efforts, primarily through voting for Amendment 3, for the increase in the number of major roads that are in good condition. Across the state, the Missouri Department of Transportation has invested the taxpayer money entrusted to the department in making major roads smoother. Since 2004, the percentage of major roads across Missouri which are now in good condition has increased 36 percent. In the St. Louis area, conditions of major roads in the area, which include Interstates 70, 64/40, 44, 270, 55, 170 and Routes 30, 21 and 364 (the Page Extension) have increased from 53.6 percent in good condition in 2004 to 84.6 percent in good condition in 2008.

Other organizations have noticed the better roads, as well. Truck drivers voted Missouri roads as the fifth best in the nation in a survey published in January by Overdrive magazine, a publication serving the commercial motor carrier industry. The Reason Foundation listed Missouri as among the nation’s leaders in maintaining its transportation system and getting good value, and the Pew Center on the States gave Missouri a B+ for its infrastructure performance.

MoDOT is continuing to use available money to improve roadways. Better Roads, Brighter Future is making the remainder of major highways smoother with wider stripes and more visible signs. The Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement program is repairing or replacing 802 of the state's worst bridges by 2014.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Commission approves nine Recovery Act projects for St. Louis

Yesterday, the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission approved using American Recovery and Rivitalization Act (ARRA) funding for nine projects in the St. Louis metropolitan area, pending approval from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. These projects, totalling $173 million, should create about 5,900 jobs throughout the region. All projects were determined in conjection with MoDOT's regional partners (to include municipal and county leadership) and meet the requirements for being ready to go. All projects in the region were selected from projects recommended for priority implementation in the region's long-range transportation plan. View the list of approved projects here.

MoDOT is spending more than $525 million of ARRA funding throughout Missouri. Additionally, the state will spend roughly $151 million on other rail, aviation and transit projects, $19 million on enhancement projects and $93 million on county and municipal road projects in St. Louis, Kansas City and the Ozarks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Planning to revitalize the economy

Last night, the Missouri Department of Transportation outlined the draft list of projects slated for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 money. The money Missouri received for roads and bridges work is roughly 1½ percent of the entire amount required to fully meet the transportation infrastructure needs across the state.

There are specific rules for a project to be selected for ARRA money. Half of the projects have to be able to be under contract before June 30 – the rest have to be under contract before March 2, 2010. They have to be completed within three years and have to be in areas that are economically distressed and have to maximize job creation after the project is completed.

The projects outlined in the draft list included nine in the St. Louis area. The major projects in the St. Louis draft list have been on the regional long-range planner for many years. All the projects on the list have been coordinated and discussed with our municipal and county partners throughout the Greater Metropolitan area. You can view the entire list here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

MoDOT activates first traffic cameras in Jefferson County

Jefferson County drivers along Interstate 55 can now get a better look at their commute, as the Missouri Department of Transportation activated five traffic cameras along the interstate in the county. Drivers can view these cameras, as well as other newly activated cameras along I-55 in south St. Louis County at
Using the new cameras, drivers can make informed decisions about their commute before they leave work or home. MoDOT can also better monitor traffic conditions and detect incidents such as crashes or congestion on I-55. That information will help the department report conditions on roadways around St. Louis on overhead message boards, Gateway and on MoDOT’s 5-1-1 traffic information number. If an incident does occur, MoDOT can dispatch crews to help with traffic control and road clearance, and relay information to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A hope for saving lives

There's no simple or sugar-coated way to put it: people die on the roadways. Although Missouri has worked hard to reduce those numbers (and done so successfully), there is sill a simple way to save about 10 percent of the people who die on Missouri roadways -- incorporating a primary safety belt law.

This year, MoDOT is working with legislators to get a primary safety belt law passed in Missouri. Increasing safety belt use is the most effective and immediate way to save lives and reduce injuries on Missouri roads. Of more than 500 Missouri traffic laws, the current safety belt law is the only one that has a secondary enforcement provision - a driver must break another law first before they can be cited for a safety belt violation.

MoDOT estimates that we can save more than 90 lives and prevent more than 1,000 serious injuries each year by passing a primary safety belt law. To do this, we need your help. Find out how Missouri can save more lives each year here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Traffic flow on I-270/I-255

MoDOT is currently doing a study on some of the recent changes to move traffic along I-270 and I-255 in St. Louis, primarily the Variable Speel Limit project. As part of that study, the department is looking for people to take a short survey to determine how effective these traffic changes are. Provide your opinion on traffic flow on the I-270/I-255 loop in Missouri by going here. This survey will remain open until the end of the study, in mid-2010. However, by putting information in now, and as the study continues, drivers in St. Louis can give their input on any improvement (or lack thereof) on traffic flow on St. Louis' busiest interstate.

What to know before you go

In St. Louis, MoDOT has more than 80 projects currently programmed to start in the next year. Some are fairly basic -- resurfacing jobs, putting in barriers and the like -- and will have minimal to no impact on traffic. Others are bigger -- such as the I-64 reconstruction between I-170 and Kingshighway. These projects will have major impact on traffic, requiring detours and extra time to get around the construction. To find out what is planned in your area for the next year, check out the 2009 St. Louis construction map. You can see it on-line here. It is in a pdf format and runs about 635 Kb.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top 10 construction zones for 2009

MoDOT has announced the 10 projects in the St. Louis metropolitan region which will have the biggest impact on traffic in the region. These projects are all programmed (which means they are funded).

Of course, the biggest project is the reconstruction of I-64 between Kingshighway and I-170. Other projects include bridgework along I-44, and resurfacing on various roadways. Click here to see the entire list.