Kansas City Scout


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Posted by Nancy Powell
Traffic Management Center Supervisor

November 24, 2010 - Thanksgiving is here and "Over The River" we go. . .

The holiday season crept upon KC disguised as mild autumn days with temps in the 60's. But we knew it wouldn't last. Frost made its debut this week on windshields and tonight’s chill is a reminder that winter is fast approaching. As you make preparations for holiday travel, be mindful of the changes that are also occurring on the roadways and bridges in our busy metropolis. The new Christopher S. Bond Bridge is now carrying traffic across the Missouri River just north of downtown Kansas City but lane restrictions remain in place, so delays can be expected. Bridge work also continues on I-435 at 23rd Street and I-470 NB at I-70 east of downtown.

In Kansas, work continues on the Overland Parkway improvements along US69 between 87th and 103rd streets. Ramps at 103rd and 95th Street will reopen November 30th. KDOT completed improvements along the I-435 corridor from Overland Park to Lenexa on Tuesday eliminating overnight and weekend lane restrictions, just in time for the annual Border Showdown at Arrowhead on Saturday. As you travel this weekend, be aware of the work zones and those dedicated employees whose efforts on these major roadways are for your benefit and safety. They depend on you for their safety.

Both MoDOT and KDOT have made improvements to their website maps in order to make it even easier to preplan your travel based on construction and winter road conditions. Visit KDOT at http://511.ksdot.org/KanRoadPublic_VE/Default.aspx and MoDOT at http://maps.modot.mo.gov/TIM/.

The first storm of the season has yet to make its entrance. Before it arrives, have your vehicles checked, replace worn tires and windshield wipers, restock car emergency supplies such as flashlights and blankets and make safety your first concern. Be aware of road conditions during inclement weather. Turn off cruise control during rain/sleet/ice conditions. Use headlights and wipers when it rains.

Safety is everyone's responsibility. Ask a friend to be a designated driver or offer to be one yourself. Don't text and drive; no message is worth taking your focus off the road. It only takes a second to take a life. Recognize that many motorists in our city during the next few weeks will be visitors and not familiar with all the construction activity along our major roadways. They will appreciate your courteous driving.

Enjoy a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Remedy For An Oversight

Nancy Powell, Traffic Management Center Supervisor

Several weeks ago, I blogged here about MoDOT's response to the July 17th collapse of the I-435 WB ramp from I-470 WB. In that blog, I omitted several individuals, whose efforts that day and throughout the weekend went above and beyond heroic. Betty Schloman is a longtime MoDOT employee and was the sole Customer Service Representative on duty in the District office that particular Saturday morning. Weekends are busy for D4 Customer Service because they field calls from four other Districts as well as the Metro KC area. Anyone calling 1-888-ASK-MODOT from anywhere in the state on weekends and after 4:30 pm weekdays, will be routed either to D4 in Lee's Summit or D6 in St. Louis, depending upon where their call originates. It is unusual for any business to offer 24/7 LIVE Customer Service, and especially so for a state government agency, but at MoDOT, it's one of many distinctions that people have come to expect.

When the roadway collapsed and was closed at 1:30 that afternoon, the phones went wild with callers wanting to know what happened and requesting detour information. While MoDOT was responding with its own crews to assess and respond to the unfolding emergency, the calls kept coming…and they did not stop throughout the entire weekend. When Betty's shift ended that Saturday, she was relieved by her boss, Jackie Davis, Customer Service Supervisor, who continued to field the avalanche of calls concerning "The Hole" until she was relieved by CSR Louise Carroll for the overnight shift. And the calls continued…

Things have settled down a bit now, with construction activity ongoing and traffic having adjusted itself around the closure. Many, many MoDOT employees deserve individual recognition for their part in managing this crisis, but these three dedicated ladies warranted special mention in this space.

In my humble opinion, the entire D4 Customer Service Department is one of MoDOT's greatest assets! Keep up the good work, ladies!

Betty Schloman

Jackie Davis

Louise Carroll

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friendly Compliance Reminder

Nancy Powell, TMC Supervisor
KC Scout Blog – August 6, 2010 - Compliance Reminder!

As part of KC Scout's ongoing effort to reduce congestion, ramp metering was deployed last November along a section of I-435 from Metcalf to the Three Trails Memorial Crossing. With the closure of I-470 WB to I-435 WB due to "The Hole," traffic has lessened considerably in the metered corridor. Last Friday afternoon between 4:45 pm and 5:45 pm, Scout was conducting traffic counts at the EB ramp from State Line onto I-435. During this one hour, peak-traffic period, 53 vehicles were observed running the red light at the signaled meter stop bar.

This is just a friendly reminder to drivers to pay closer attention to the traffic signals, as local law enforcement will be patrolling these metered ramps and they are issuing violations to motorists who fail to stop.

Please Drive As Though Your Life Depended Upon It…because it does!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Hole Story

Nancy Powell, TMC Supervisor
KC Scout Blog – July 29, 2010

On July 8th, MoDOT engineers opted to close the right lane of the ramp from I-470 WB to I-435 WB at the Three Trails Memorial Crossing. This was due to settling in the area underneath the overpass which had caused the shoulder to become unstable. Cones restricted traffic from using the right lane and the traffic flow adjusted to accommodate the lane closure.

July 17th began as a sunny, humid Saturday morning, but quickly dissolved into a bit of a mess for MoDOT and area motorists. On this day at KC Scout, Sr. Traffic Systems Operator Dave McDaniel was conducting routine camera scans when something out of the ordinary caught his eye. While looking at the cameras in the area formerly known as "the Triangle" he noticed what appeared at first to be a split in the pavement in the closed section of the I-435 WB ramp. He then dispatched Emergency Responder Tony Snorgrass, who had just finished helping with a tire change on I-470 at Lakewood to check it out. Tony responded to the closure zone, and upon walking down under the bridge, detected an emerging gap in the pavement. He took immediate action and with assistance from Dave back in the TMC, they both began calling out MoDOT personnel, and immediately shutdown the entire ramp, including the adjacent 71 NB ramp to I-435 WB. At the afternoon Scout shift change, Dave briefed incoming Traffic Systems Operator, Scott Browning, on the still unfolding emergency in the triangle. Scott continued to monitor the flurry of activity at "The Hole" throughout the remainder of his 8 hour shift.

I was scheduled to work the overnight shift that Saturday night. When I reported to the TMC at 9:45 pm, MoDOT's senior management was still assembled with their incident response team at the District headquarters in Lee's Summit. Before she left the building near midnight, Beth Wright, our D4 District Engineer, came into the TMC to brief Scout and Customer Service on the latest developments concerning The Hole. She and her team would be back at 6:30 am Sunday to continue with detour plans and portable signage deployment in anticipation of Monday's rush hour and the impact this closure would have on area commuters.

Her "calm under chaos" demeanor that stressful weekend reminded me of something that occurred during my first month of employment with KC Scout back in July of 2004. On that bright summer day, the police radio in the TMC announced that a MoDOT worker had just been struck on I-435 near 23rd Street in Independence. A beloved longtime MoDOT employee lost their life that afternoon. Prior to that fateful day, I had not yet met Beth Wright. But in the midst of her own immeasurable grief, I watched as she entered the TMC to comfort and console her staff as best she could in the midst of overwhelming shock and sadness. That is the quality of a true leader. I knew then that I'd made the right decision in joining an organization that lifted its own when the walls came tumbling down.

So today, I'd like to say to Beth, Dave, Tony and Scott, "Once again, well done, team MoDOT. You make a difference in the work you do - each and every day!"

Beth Wright
D4 District Engineer

Dave McDaniel
Scout Sr. Traffic
Systems Operator

Tony Snorgrass
Emergency Response

Scott Browning
Scout/KHP Traffic
Systems Operator

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Remember, Safety First!!

Posted by Nancy Powell
Traffic Management Center Supervisor

July 1, 2010

As the 4th of July holiday weekend approaches, thoughts turn to festive celebrations with family and friends. For those of us in public safety and transportation sectors, we view the weekend with an eye on increased numbers of vehicles travelling the interstates. Remember to buckle up! It's a simple act that saves lives. If your celebration includes alcohol, be mindful that drinking and driving can have deadly consequences. Designate a sober driver. Everyone will thank you! If you don't drink, offer to provide transportation so that your friends and loved ones aren't tempted to get behind the wheel impaired.

Many area communities and venues have planned elaborate fireworks displays for your entertainment. Each year we see vehicles line up along the shoulder of the interstate after dark to watch the show in the sky, only to pose a serious hazard for themselves and others. "Watch out for the other guy" is always good advice. It applies equally well to the many motorcyclists with whom we share our highways. Please don't text and drive. Inattention is right up there with speeding and failing to yield right-of-way as a primary cause of traffic accidents.

Hopefully we'll have beautiful summer skies this weekend, but if Mother Nature showers us with rainfall, then remember to use your headlights whenever your wipers are on…it's the law. If you need emergency assistance, pull to the right shoulder if at all possible and turn on your hazard lights. Dial *55 for Missouri Highway Patrol or *47 for Kansas Highway Patrol. It's always best to remain in your vehicle until help arrives.

If you plan to travel between Kansas City and St. Louis on I-70, take note of the Electronic Message Boards along the way. The information they provide is for your benefit. We take our jobs seriously at KC Scout and helping you stay informed is just one of the many services we provide.

Whatever the message…Move over for emergency vehicles…stay to the right unless passing…click it or ticket…you drink/you drive/you lose…they come to you with our wishes for a safe and fun-filled holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Post About Posts

Posted by Nancy Powell,
Traffic Management Center Supervisor

May 26, 2010 - A Post About Posts

An odd phenomenon is occurring with some frequency throughout the KC metro area. Vehicles are driving into, around and through highway signs. We at Scout are amazed at the numbers of incidents involving sign posts specifically. Just yesterday morning, a semi jackknifed on NB I-435 at MO 210 and wrapped itself around a sign post, impaling the trailer.

With recurring frequency, the 222B Exit sign on I-35 NB to I-435 WB in Lenexa has been the unwitting target of vehicular assault.

And while on the subject of posts...yet another kind have been under attack recently, but for a very good reason. On Monday, Kansas Governor Parkinson signed into law House Substitute for Senate Bill 300 prohibiting drivers from writing, sending, or reading handheld text messages while driving. Exceptions to this bill include use by law enforcement and emergency service personnel; receiving emergency, traffic, or weather related messages; reporting illegal activity to law enforcement; and using a wireless communications device to make or receive a phone call. Law enforcement will be required to issue a warning citation for violations until January 1, 2011. The fine for unlawful texting will be $60. Missouri adopted Senate Bill 130 last August to prohibit drivers from sending, reading, or writing text messages while operating motor vehicles on the highways of Missouri except under limited circumstances.

If you are one of those techno-savvy folks who can't fathom being without their electronic gizmos while behind the wheel, consider the consequences of being fined, sustaining property damage or worse, a loss of life, perhaps not your own. No electronic message is so important that it can't wait until you are safely at your destination to respond. Let’s give highway posts a rest shall we?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Run For The Wall

Posted by Nancy Powell,
Traffic Management Center Supervisor

May 24, 2010 - Run For The Wall

KC Scout proudly welcomed over 350 "Run For The Wall" motorcycle riders Monday morning as they traveled I-70 Eastbound through Kansas City enroute from California to Washington, D.C. This year marks the 22nd Annual Ride in recognition of ALL Veterans, active duty men and women and those who gave the supreme sacrifice in service to their country. The RFTW mission is:

To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends,
To call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing In Action
To honor the memory of those Killed in Action from all wars, and
To support our military personnel all over the world.

Their motto is We Ride For Those Who Can't and this year's run began May 19th in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Riders will reach the nation's capital on Memorial Day Sunday, May 30th and unite there with riders from all across the country to form Rolling Thunder XXIII, a Welcome Home and WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN Parade from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial - THE WALL.

For more information visit, RFTW.org.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

National Public Works Week - May 16-22, 2010

Posted by Nancy Powell,
Traffic Management Center Supervisor

This week marks a 50 year milestone for professionals in our industry. By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate designated the week of May 16th through 22nd as National Public Works Week, to recognize the men and women throughout the country who provide and maintain the infrastructure and services known as "public works." Transportation is one component of this collective group, celebrating 50 years of organizational achievement in services provided to communities throughout the nation.

On Tuesday, over 500 metropolitan area professionals gathered at the Hyatt Regency to recognize outstanding achievements among the members of the Kansas City Metro Chapter of APWA (American Public Works Association). KC Scout was honored to receive a National Award of Exceptional Performance in Journalism for its Public Relations campaign to promote the November 2009 launch of Ramp Metering in the metro area. The campaign, entitled "Maximizing The Flow" also received a Chapter Award for Technical Innovation. In addition, William "Rusty" James was honored as Chapter Professional Manager of the Year for Public Works/Emergency Management in recognition of his role as KC Scout Incident Management Coordinator and for his tireless efforts to achieve a renewed "One Accord Agreement" between more than 50 area law enforcement agencies and partners. As a result of this effort, there is greater cooperation among agencies sharing a common goal of quickly clearing roadway incidents to ease congestion and provide for the safety of first responders.

MoDOT was also recognized as a National Award Winner in the category of Diversity Exemplary Practices, for its innovative CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and Job Awareness Training program. This initiative, undertaken in partnership with several area faith-based organizations, was designed to help unemployed workers train to obtain a CDL, a requirement for many public works positions. The "Call To Oneness" campaign also offered coaching and mentoring in interviewing and life success skills. As a result, over 75 positions were filled in the metropolitan area, providing stimulus and economic gain for those workers and benefitting the citizens they now serve in their respective organizations.

Speaking as one of you, I salute all fellow public works employees in the Greater Kansas City area for the work you do to make our community truly one of the most livable cities in America. Congratulations!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Work Zone Awareness Week

Posted by Nancy Powell,

Traffic Management Center Supervisor

Kansas City traffic has a rhythmic pattern not unlike its musical roots of blues and jazz. Morning and evening rush hours carry the melody while work zones and lane closures provide varying interludes. From Scout's perspective, the patterns are easily discernable. Traffic System Operators anticipate the changing rhythms and are attuned to detect subtle differences in flow and pattern with the use of sophisticated software tools and trained eyes.

This week all eyes are on the many Work Zones scattered throughout the Metro area. It's spring and that means it's Orange Barrel season! And not just within the city limits of Kansas City. Throughout the country, twenty-five Departments of Transportation are recognizing April 19th through 23rd as "Work Zone Awareness Week." Over 700 people died in highway work zone accidents in the U.S. during 2009 including workers and occupants of vehicles with inattentive drivers behind the wheel.

The sad truth is that these are preventable deaths. Distraction caused by cell phone use while driving is on the rise, especially among younger, less experienced drivers. Be mindful of the messages posted to alert that a Work Zone is in progress. Slow down and stay alert. Let's not be singing the blues this time next year! Get jazzed about attentive driving!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Day in the Life of...

Posted by Nancy Powell, Traffic Management Center Supervisor

Those of us who work at KC Scout encounter the same road conditions as those we aim to serve. Friday, April 2nd's fierce thunderstorm came on with a fury and wrecked havoc throughout the metro area. I was enroute to the Traffic Management Center around 9:40 AM in my VW bug with the window open less than an inch and was startled when a fat rain drop bulls eyed my eye and dislodged my contact. Then I felt the wind roar up and thought my cloth roof was about to be shredded. I was crossing over I-470 at the time and gripped the wheel tighter as my little car shook violently. Within two minutes I was in the MoDOT parking lot and under siege by straight line winds and torrential rain.

During the next fifteen minutes, three semi tractor trailers would be tipped over like Matchbox trucks, tossed by an angry toddler. Power lines were knocked down throughout the city, police and fire dispatch radios were putting out call after call, maintenance crews were being dispatched on reports of road debris, and Scout's operators were managing it all with focus and efficiency. The views on the cameras mirrored the weather radar as the storm raged its way across our seven metro interstates.

It's on mornings like this that I take great pride in working for Scout. Our incident messaging and web alerts kept motorists informed. When things finally calmed down, I said, "well, that was a wild ride..." and operators at the consoles glanced up at me and smiled, as I stood there dripping wet, marveling at their competence. Some days are better than others. That Friday was exceptional!