Monday, June 30, 2014

Statewide Benefits Are Numerous From CA-7 Draft Project List

Dear Missourians,

Last week Ed Hassinger, chief engineer at the Missouri Department of Transportation, briefed the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission on the draft project list that will be delivered over the next 10 years if Constitutional Amendment 7 passes on August 5.

Following Ed’s overview about the collaborative process with planning partners and others that has been used to develop this list, each MoDOT district engineer highlighted projects that would be realized in their respective regions.  I hope you will agree with me, this list is impressive and offers across-the-board benefits that we have never been able to achieve before:

  •  A six-lane Interstate 70 across the state
  • Some 400 bridge projects including 5 major river crossings
  • 3,200 miles of roadway resurfacing
  • 750 miles of new shoulders on rural highways
  •  29 interchange improvements
  • 7 upgrades to port facilities
  • 14 railway projects
  •  23 airport improvements
  •  Statewide public transportation improvements, including new equipment and increased hours/days of service
  •  61 sidewalk and non-motorized transportation projects

Public comments are being accepted at until 5 p.m., July 3. So far, more than 800 comments have been received. Based on this input, final adjustments will be made to the list and presented to the Commission for approval on July 9.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a closer look at the projects that are included on the final list to illustrate how they represent a new transportation future for Missouri.

If you would like to communicate with the Commission, you can always reach us at


Stephen R. Miller

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Inspectors Snoop Under Bridges to Check Conditions

An under bridge inspection unit, also known as a snooper truck, is an odd looking vehicle that causes many who see it to do a bit of a double take. On May 27, there were many spectators at Table Rock Lake in Branson, MO that did just that. While they were watching from the lake front, dam observatory and occasionally from idling boats, a four-man MoDOT crew was assisting the Army Corps of Engineers in the inspection of the dam.

The under bridge inspection unit on location in Branson that day is one of only three in the state. With so few units statewide, each truck and crew covers a large portion of Missouri and its bridges. All three crews are part of the Bridge Management Section of the Bridge Division.

The trucks and the crews that operate them are an invaluable asset when it comes to making sure the bridges of Missouri are safe for motorists. Every bridge in Missouri is inspected regularly for safety. If a disaster happens, a bridge must be inspected immediately before motorists will be allowed to drive on it for their safety.

In order for the crew to inspect under the bridge, the snooper truck can extend its arm allowing the operator to go off the side of the bridge. A counter weight on the truck prevents the unit from tipping over. The arm is then maneuvered into position underneath the bridge for inspection. The truck’s arm can lower itself and reach a total of 62 feet across the width of a bridge for the inspector to check for cracks, damage and deterioration.

If a crack is found, it is measured and evaluated to make sure it is not compromising the integrity of the bridge. Not all cracks are equal. While bridges will have cracks, the crew is looking for cracks in areas of stress, or cracks that show growth from a previous inspection. They also are testing the thickness of the steel in areas of section loss caused by rust to make sure it is still in good condition.

According to the bridge inspection crew, it is not uncommon to close up to two bridges a month in need of immediate repairs. The bridge deterioration can be caused by numerous things. It can be from the salt and abrasives added during winter to help keep ice off the bridges that cannot be reached to wash away, or simply from fatigue over time caused by heavy trucks passing over it.

In Missouri, there are more than 10,400 state bridges. A total of 208 bridges are considered “major” meaning they exceed 1,000 feet in length. Currently 47 of those major bridges are considered to be in poor condition while an additional 97 are only considered to be in fair condition. Overall a total of 6,598 bridges are in fair to poor condition.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Don’t Forget to Wash Behind Your…Bridges?

Starting at MoDOT I knew I had a lot to learn. Each day is a new lesson on how MoDOT works and what we do to provide a world-class transportation experience. While I am trying to take in all of this new information, one thing that I heard recently I didn’t expect. MoDOT washes bridges.

After making sure my coworkers were not pulling a fast one on the new guy I wanted to learn more about this process and why we do it. I reached out to Maintenance Liaison Engineer Michael Shea who was happy to help a new MoDOT employee learn about this maintenance procedure.

During the winter season salt is put on the roads to help melt the ice and provide safer driving conditions for Missourians. When the weather gets warmer it is common to wash your car so the salt and abrasives don’t start to cause erosion and rust.

In order to keep the bridges free from the same salt and abrasives that could lead to deterioration on your car, MoDOT washes Missouri bridges twice a year using flush trucks, sweepers, and other equipment. It doesn’t matter if the bridge is new or old, it will be washed before and after the winter season.

Washing the top surface of the bridge is only half the battle. Many bridges have expansions joints that can start to leak due to the forces of nature hitting them over time. These leaks can lead to salt and abrasives getting down underneath the bridge. Although it can be harder to get to and may require the use of scaffolding, washing underneath the bridge is just as important as the side you drive on in order to maintain a better bridge.

If you ever come across a maintenance crew blasting water on a bridge remember they are there helping keep that bridge healthy for you to drive on for years to come.    

Monday, May 12, 2014

All Aboard for National Train Day!

This Saturday May 10 is the 7th annual National Train Day! This national celebration serves as a way to inform the public about the advantages of traveling by rail and to focus on the history of trains in the United States! In other words it is a day to celebrate how awesome trains are!

I don’t know about you, but I spend a fair amount of time glued to the television. By “fair amount” I mean there are occasional moments when I look away to double check that my surroundings are not currently on fire before focusing back on the magical box in the center of my living room.

Television has fostered a love of trains. When I was young there was Thomas the Train and the freight cars of Conjunction Junction on School House Rock.  Later in life I would see how amazing trains are in films such as From Russia with Love where James Bond fought villains on the Orient Express. From the early days of Buster Keaton in The General to Denzel Washington in Unstoppable, trains have been a captivating mode of transportation.

Take time this Saturday, May 10 to unglue from the television and see a real train. This anniversary of the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad can be your moment to learn more than what the silver screen shows you with events that include train displays, model train exhibits and kid friendly activities. Learn more about the events at

In Missouri, there are events taking place for National Train Day in La Plata, Kansas City and St. Louis.  

Get out and join in the festivities this Saturday. You can always record 3:10 to Yuma or the Polar Express and watch them some other time. All aboard for a great day of trains!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't PLOW Into Farmers This Growing Season

If you grew up in a small rural town of Missouri it is very likely that you are not a stranger to slowing down while driving because some farm equipment is slowly going down a rural highway.

I remember how annoyed I would get when I got stuck behind agriculture equipment on the road. I had places to go, people to see, and blockbuster movies to watch! The idea of “share the road” was lost on a younger me.

I realize now that the young impatient driver I used to be was a jerk!

Agriculture is a huge part of Missouri’s economy and the food they grow might be the food on your plate and the plate of others around the world. These men and women are not out there on the road just to ruin your drive time, they are doing their job.

To all the farmers that I flew by in my younger years I apologize, and I urge my fellow drivers to be respectful of Missouri farmers and slow down and stay back from farm equipment on the road. It won’t take much time before you are able to safely go around them and on your way.

Drive safe. Be courteous. Arrive alive. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Celebrations and Safety

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” 
 Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when you see teens dressed in tuxedos and elegant dresses at your local Applebee’s and hear high school bands playing “Pomp and Circumstance” which will remain in your head for the following week. The season of emotional parents, embarrassed teens, and so many pictures your camera is likely to call in the extra help of your cell phone.

Prom and Graduation are major events in the lives of the American teen and their family. While the valedictorian is likely to quote the Dr. Seuss classic “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” It is up to you to make sure that the places your teen will go won’t end on those momentous nights.

Talking to teens can at times seem like asking for an argument. I won’t say that you shouldn't expect the classic exaggerated eye roll, or even the annoyed “I know!” over and over as a response. Regardless of these inevitable reactions it is important to talk with your teen about safety.

Tips For Parents 
  • Know and discuss the school code of conduct before the prom with your student. 
  • Know who your daughter or son is attending the prom with and discuss the events for pre and post prom parties with other parents. 
  • Talk with your student about the dangers of club drugs, warning signs and who to notify for assistance. 
  • Discuss responses  he or she can use to get out of uncomfortable situations. (e.g., offered alcohol, intoxicated driver, unwanted sexual advances, etc.) 
  • Discuss guidelines and a curfew. Discuss the consequences of violating these rules. 
  • Discuss travel plans, use a reputable limousine service that will not allow a person to bring, serve or introduce alcohol into the vehicle. 
  • Know who is driving to the prom and who will be a passenger. Limit the number of passengers to increase safety and reduce driver distractions. 
  • Know the location of post prom parties and who is sponsoring them. 
  • Talk to your teenager about the serious dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. 
Remember that Missouri has a Zero Tolerance Law.  If you are under 21, your license will be suspended if you’re caught driving with even a trace of alcohol in your system.

Consider some of the consequences if you choose to drive impaired:

  • If you cause a fatal crash while intoxicated, you can be charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony resulting in up to seven years of prison time, a $5,000 fine or both. 
  • Your license can be suspended for 90 days on your first conviction. You could be fined up to $500 and spend up to 6 months in jail.
  • A second conviction results in a yearlong revocation of your license. You could be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to one year in jail. 
  • Any person guilty of a second or subsequent intoxication-related traffic offense will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car before reinstating driving privileges.
  • Minors may additionally be subject to a Minor in Possession citation resulting in license suspension for 90 days for first offense. This is in addition to any suspension resulting from point assessment on an alcohol conviction.
  • If you refuse a sobriety test, you can lose your license on the spot and have your car impounded.

Talk to your teen about the importance of safety. While prom and graduation are momentous occasions in their lives, they are just the start of many more to come over the years. Make sure they know all they need to know so they can go places they will go.

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 -

Jefferson City Earth Day -