WHAT OTHERS SAY: MoDOT cuts costs, adds J-turns, tests anti-smog roads

Monday, October 10, 2011 | 4:45 p.m. CDT

Recent pronouncements from the state’s transportation agency have ranged from gratifying to questionable to quirky.

The Missouri Department of Transportation provided an update last week on its five-year cost-cutting plan.

MoDOT announced it has saved $177 million toward its goal of saving $512 million by 2015.

To date, the agency has eliminated 667 staff positions, closed 23 facilities and disposed of 245 pieces of equipment.

The announcement may be somewhat self-congratulatory, but the progress deserves praise.

On a separate note, we’ll reserve judgment on the first of the new J-turns opening on U.S. 54 in Cole County.

The J-turns are designed to replace the admittedly dangerous grade-level intersections along that stretch of highway. Diamond interchanges, a preferable alternative, are cost-prohibitive at this time.

But J-turns are not without hazards. Essentially, they require exiting onto a deceleration lane from a highway passing lane, negotiating a hairpin turn in a median, accelerating and merging into passing-lane traffic, then traversing from passing lane to cruising lane to deceleration lane. (Schematics on MoDOT’s web site offer a visual illustration.)

The advantage of a J-turn in comparison to a grade-level crossing is the tendency to eliminate broadside collisions.

But side-swipe and rear-end collisions remain distinct possibilities, as do their consequences — overturning and careening off roadways.

The benefits and liabilities of J-turns must be monitored closely.

Finally, MoDOT will provide a glimpse of the future when it installs smog-eating concrete along a stretch of roadway.

The agency plans to test a new type of smog-absorbing concrete on a section of Missouri 141 in St. Louis County. The work is scheduled to begin Oct. 19.

The concrete contains a photocatalytic additive of titanium dioxide, which absorbs smog, uses sunlight to break it down, then releases it as nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

Although the additive has been used in Europe, MoDOT officials believe the Missouri project will be the first test in the United States.

If all goes according to plan, perhaps we all can breathe easier.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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