Road construction season will be biggest in history
SIKESTON -- This year's road construction season will be the biggest ever for both the Missouri Department of Transportation and its southeast district as the department works around the clock to meet a new challenge.
This is the second year for MoDOT's Smooth Roads Initiative. Funded by the voter-approved Amendment 3, the initiative was originally designed to be a three-year program but has now adjusted its schedule.
"Gov. Matt Blunt challenged us in his State of the State Address to complete the Smooth Roads Initiative one year early," explained Mark Shelton, district engineer for MoDOT's southeast district. "We are going to meet that challenge. ... We've been working with our contractors to get this done early."
The goal is to bring the state's most heavily-traveled 2,200 miles of highways up to good condition. All these improvements mean that MoDOT will have thousands of work zones statewide this year, many of them on major interstates and highways.
About a dozen construction projects are scheduled within the immediate area this year.
"We have a tremendous amount of work to do," Shelton said. "This is really significant work we're going to be doing."
Among the more visible projects will be those on state highways running through municipalities such as Malone Avenue in Sikeston (Route 62) and Main Street in Scott City (Route K).
"We're going to resurface all of those," Shelton said.
The work will be done at night on the business routes to cause the least disruption to businesses. "We hope residents will notice progress each morning," he said.
Work on Malone will take "a couple weeks, provided we have good weather," Shelton predicted.
The projects will cover "just about every inch" on I-55 and I-57 in the district, Shelton said. "We're not doing about 10 miles near St. Genevieve and some just north of the Arkansas state line."
If there is a downside, it would be that more work zones mean more delays, frustrations and opportunities for drivers to be distracted, making work zones dangerous places.
Shelton noted today is the first day of National Work Zone Awareness Week.
"Please be patient with us," he said. "Please slow down - I know it's going to be inconvenient this year traveling but it's going to be great at the end of this year when we're all done."
Safety is always a top concern for MoDOT but the department also wants to try to minimize drivers' frustrations. Resources such as billboards, radio advertisements, and a statewide construction map are all being provided so motorists can plan ahead.
State statistics show that most work zone crashes are caused by inattention, excessive speed and following too closely. Accordingly, motorists should pay close attention in work zones, slow down and allow plenty of space between their car and the one in front of them.
MoDOT officials noted that while far too many of their employees and contractors have lost their lives in work zones, it is the motorist who is most likely to be killed or injured in a work-zone crash.
Fortunantely, many motorists are driving smarter these days, according to MoDOT. Work-zone deaths and injuries were dramatically down last year with only 15 fatalities and 940 motorists injured as compared with 2004 when 28 motorists died in work-zone crashes and 1,167 were injured.
"In the grand scheme of things, a few minutes of inconvenience means years of smoother, safer driving," said Don Hillis, director of System Management for MoDOT. "We're doing our part to keep you moving through Missouri, but the difference is you. 'Drive Smart and Arrive Alive.'"
Motorists can find an online construction map at www.modot.org to identify where work zones are located and when improvements will take place.
For more information about construction projects and work zones statewide, visit www.modot.org or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).