Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Remembering Captain Planet this Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

If you are a certain age you are well aware that Smokey the Bear wanted you to help prevent forest fires and Snuff McGruff wanted you to help him “take a bite outta crime.” These were just little cartoon commercials, but they still planted that idea of what you should do to help out.

Growing up there was no better program on television that instilled the idea of taking the time and effort to improve the ecosystem, while still being an action packed show that you and your friends played on the playground, than Captain Planet!

Every episode had a lesson about the necessity of not polluting the earth. When the evil polluting villains became too much for the Planeteers to handle they called on Captain Planet to help save the day.

Looking back this Superman with a green mullet that enforced ecofriendly behavior was a crazy idea for a kid show. Can you imagine hearing that story pitch? There would be a good amount of laughter if I heard it before saying, “wait are you serious?”

It has been many years since I have watched the show Captain Planet, but every Earth Day I think back on the time I spent watching that show, or arguing over who would be Captain Planet and who would be a Planeteer on the playground.

Whether you remember the cartoon or not, take time this Earth Day to be a Planeteer again. Teach the children you love those ecological lessons you learned. Show them the importance of planting a tree, recycling, picking up trash, not leaving the water running and changing out old light bulbs for more energy efficient ones.
If you live in Missouri take time this Friday April 25 to come to Jefferson City and celebrate Earth Day! The celebration will be from 10 AM to 2 PM on the State Capitol south lawn. It will be a day of fun and education with exhibits, presentations and crafts!

While you are there, you will learn about the Adopt-A-Highway program, which is in its 27th year, and how to volunteer to help make Missouri roads cleaner, more attractive and better for the environment.

You will also hear about the annual No MOre Trash! Bash. The Trash Bash encourages folks to avoid littering in the first place and picking up others' trash to help the environment and the wildlife such as birds, fish, turtles and others that can become entangled or otherwise harmed by it.

Peanut the Turtle
One such case is the story of Peanut the Turtle. When a young turtle crawled into a six-pack ring that stayed around her as she grew, the trash deformed her shell into the shape of a peanut. Peanut survived, the ring was removed and she has lived with the Missouri Department of Conservation as their environmental spokesturtle since 1993.

Take time this Earth Day to be a Planeteer again. Educate the young ones in your life on the importance of making the world a better and cleaner place to live and help make stories like Peanut the Turtle's a thing of the past.

Remember, “the power is yours!”

Find out more information on how you can help the environment at:

No MOre Trash! Bash - http://nomoretrash.org/

Jefferson City Earth Day - https://www.dnr.mo.gov/earthday/

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Starting a Road Trip to Adventure

"Winds in the east, there's a mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.”
                                         -Richard and Robert Sherman

Conway Welcome Center
As the cold winds of winter blow warmer each day, a spark is rekindled in the hearts of many Missourians. That spark is the inspiration for adventure, family fun and the open road.

Like many of my fellow Missourians I remember piling in the family car and taking off for great American destinations every summer. As my brother and I piled into the back seat of the car with our minds racing about what “I spy” item would really stump the other during the drive, I would always have that feeling that something exciting was about to begin.

While a detour was usually made to visit grandparents or a nearby cave there was always one stop that we made before leaving the state and one stop before returning home. It was a constant that we would stop at a Missouri rest area. It allowed space to stretch our legs, get a drink, use the restroom and convince my dad to completely unpack the trunk to find the GameBoy that I had packed in my suitcase.

As a kid these stops were markers for the vacation in my mind. Going on a drive was common, but when we stopped at a rest area it was the launching pad for a vacation adventure! We were headed somewhere new, fun and exciting. On the way home the same rest areas were a welcome sight as they told me we were close to home.

With 15 rest areas and eight welcome centers on Missouri Interstates it is easy to find a good break point regardless of if you are launching into a family vacation, returning home from a long trip, or just need a place to pull off the road for a minute.  An estimated 16.5 million visitors will stop at a Missouri rest area this year to enjoy their amenities and a much needed moment to stretch and walk around.

Take time to get to know the Missouri rest area’s and welcome centers at, http://www.modot.org/services/travel/restarea/. Catch that spark this summer and let the Missouri roads lead you on an adventure!

Not looking to leave the Missouri this summer? There is plenty of adventure right here in the Show-Me State! Go to http://www.visitmo.com/ for an amazing list of vacations right here at home!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Work Zone Press Conference Highlights Safety

On Tuesday, April 8, Southwest District Engineer Becky Baltz, MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger and Highway Patrol Lieutenant Dan Bracker gathered in Springfield to talk to reporters about work zone awareness at MoDOT's statewide news conference.

Baltz opened the press conference by thanking MoDOT's partners and all the highway workers represented.  In addition to MoDOT and the highway patrol, local public works departments, emergency response, and law enforcement were on hand to support the cause. She asked that motorists watch out for everyone who helps keep Missouri moving, so everyone can go home safely each night.

Ed Hassinger and Lt. Bracker took the opportunity to talk about Missouri's "Move Over Law". The law requires motorists to move over one lane and give extra room whenever they see emergency or roadwork vehicles on the side of the road with flashing lights on.
"The law is simple," Hassinger said. "If you see a vehicle with flashing lights on, move over and give some room. If you can't move over, you are required to slow down and proceed cautiously past the vehicles and workers."

Lt. Bracker said that in 2013, the Missouri State Highway Patrol spent almost 1,800 hours on construction work zone enforcement operations. They made 569 arrests and issued 637 warnings.

"The Missouri state Highway Patrol is committed to providing the safest possible highway transportation system for everyone who uses our highways, builds our highways and maintains our highways," said Bracker. "We will continue to make work zone enforcement one of our top priorities throughout the year."

Hassinger also discussed the future of transportation and how lack of transportation funding will change Missouri's work zones.

"MoDOT's focus is increasingly on preservation of the existing transportation system," he said. "By 2017 our budget will fall well under what it takes to maintain what we've got, and that could lead to the deterioration of highways across the state."

Regardless of the work taking place, the most important message of the day was safety. When motorists pay attention and drive with caution through work zones, that means fewer crashes, fewer fatalities, and fewer injuries. Drivers play a key role in making work zones safe for everyone - especially themselves.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Paging Dr. Bridges

Central Missouri motorists might see a tricked-out van similar to this driving on and around bridges.

It belongs to a company called Penetradar. They use ground-penetrating radar to evaluate pavement - as in this image from their website. It's also great for analyzing bridge decks.

Think of it as a giant CAT scan or MRI. Back in the day, doctors often operated with minimal information - maybe an X-ray and a list of symptoms. Surgery was measured in hours and recovery in weeks. Now before surgery, doctors and technicians gather information so they know what they'll face in the operating room. Some surgeries are down to minutes and often patients go home the same day.

MoDOT is planning to start some bridge work in the Columbia area soon, so the van is gathering data. That information will help identify issues within the bridge that need addressing before a single cut is made in the pavement.

That helps the repair contractor. They'll know what they are facing before they open the surface. Fewer surprises make for less stressful, more profitable work.

It helps MoDOT. Fewer surprises make for fewer last-minute (often expensive) fixes and keep work zone time to a minimum.

But most of all, it helps motorists. When a contractor knows what they'll face, they can "operate" and get out of drivers' way more quickly.

Now...this will only hurt a little bit...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monster Trucks: Hugenormous Edition

So, say you have some natural gas lying around and you want to extract hydrocarbon liquids from it. 

You're going to need a demethanizer tower. Problem is, those towers are huge and must be built in one shot. On site assembly of smaller parts isn't possible. 

How do you get it from the manufacturing plant to your site?

You call an oversize/overweight load specialty motor carrier. These pros work with MoDOT to determine a safe route, design a trailer/tire layout that distributes the weight evenly and ensure the load can safely travel all the bridges, exits and corners on the route.

In many cases, the carrier also contacts the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Troopers assist in escorting the largest and/or most complicated movements. 

This demethanizer load was 12' wide, 15' 3" tall and 240' long
from bumper to bumper. (A football field is 300' long.)
From centuries-old houses to manufacturing equipment to wind turbine elements, MoDOT and the Patrol have assisted in thousands of safe trips.  

It takes time, patience and some expense to arrange such a move, but it sure beats trying to build a demethanizer tower from scratch!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Work Zone Safety - From a Widow's Perspective

A plea - from the wife of Dennis Beard, who was killed in an Illinois work zone in 2012. Let her words sound in your ears any time you see construction or flashing yellow lights.

This (click to see photos) is my husband, Dennis. The most important part of his life was his family and friends. Second was his work. Dennis was very passionate about his work, the people who worked for him, and their safety and well being. On May 22nd Dennis, his nephews Kory Links and Adam Evans, and his friend Brian Moore were all struck by a vehicle while doing their jobs. Dennis was killed by this driver whom was driving dangerously and erratically at a high rate of speed in a construction zone. Dennis was not killed instantly, but lived a very short while, alert and thinking he was going to survive. Because of one person's negligence, Dennis' precious life was taken from us and the lives of his family have been changed forever.

I cannot explain the devastation this has caused our family. We lost our dear Dennis - a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a great-uncle, a cousin, and a friend to many, many people. If you just try to imagine what it would be like to have to come home and tell your children who walk in the door smiling that their dad was just killed at work - you would think about how IMPORTANT it is to pay attention and slow down in work zones. Our family will never be the same because of the constant pain we feel and the huge hole we now have in our family and hearts.

Please let me tell you a little bit about Dennis. Most importantly, Dennis was not ready to leave this earth. He had many things left unfinished. He has three children - Tessa age 12, James 8, and Alayna 4. He just recently involved his children and nephews in go-kart racing. Dennis spent every waking hour outside of work working on the go-karts for the next following week’s race. He loved the outdoors and wanted his kids to love it too. He took them boating, camping, hunting, snowmobiling, four-wheeling, racing, and most recently they began fishing together. Dennis had a big heart and was always very giving to everyone he knew and met.

The single most important thing that you can do for our family and other families who have loved ones working on the roads is to be patient, pay attention, and slow down in construction zones. Everyone wants their loved ones to return home every single day from work. My husband left for work and was gone from this earth three hours later. We didn’t even have a chance to say good bye.

Josie Beard

See pictures of Dennis, Josie and their family here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Work Zone Safety - Why It's a Big Deal

April 15-19 is Work Zone Awareness Week for 2013.

We tend to think EVERY week is Work Zone Awareness Week at MoDOT. Just like everyone else, we want to get home safe at the end of our workday. We'll do whatever it takes to help make that happen.

In our work, we see too many times what happens when someone behaves in an unsafe manner. We've been called to thousands of crash scenes to help direct traffic while emergency crews and law enforcement assist injured motorists.

We've been the first to respond when a car or truck slams into one of our dump trucks. We've called 911 or *55 when an inattentive driver plows into the back of someone observing a slower work zone speed limit. We've held the hands of our dying coworkers and promised to relay their messages of love to their spouses and families.

That's why it's a big deal.

Now that you know the impact of unsafe behavior, we hope you make safe driving in work zones - and everywhere else - a big deal.