Give credit where due: MoDOT doing good work on I-29

Sometimes a government agency deserves thanks for a job well done.

Those responsible in elected and civil servant posts make good things happen in partnership with science. We hardly notice when it’s like that. These days it feels like we’re caught in a culture of condemnation rather than acknowledgement and uplift.

So here’s a bright spot for you.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), a contractor, hard working employees, and some research paid for with your federal tax dollars deserve a big fat kudo. This year, Interstate 29 has been given a fresh layer of pavement in Platte County from Platte City southward.

Major traffic disruptions have been almost nil, and I drive this highway frequently, almost daily. That’s remarkable on a highway that carries heavy car, truck, and semi-trailer traffic.

Some mornings I’d drive south on I-29 toward Kansas City where old pavement was chewed off. The tires made a growly sound.

On the return trip north in the evening, usually about 6 p.m., I’d see workers pulling in and parking in a field near equipment, waiting for darkness. If I came home late enough, I’d sometimes pass a truck with workings putting out orange cones, getting ready for a night’s work.

The next morning, I’d pull onto the highway onto fresh black pavement, almost shiny with newness. It was laid down the night before, just hours earlier.

Surely heavy semi-trailer trucks would dent and warp such fresh pavement, I thought, but no, a day or two later it would be a bit duller in color but still level and smooth.

This went on all summer in various sections of I-29.

Idecker Inc. Construction Co. of St. Joseph is the lead contractor, and there are various subcontractors. Heavy equipment catches the eye. Yet it takes people driving that equipment, hauling asphalt in trucks, moving a pavement machine along a precise route, working under bright lights, night after night.

Idecker has 22 employees on the job, subcontractors have an additional 50, and MoDOT has seven overseeing the project, said Melissa Black, communications manager for MoDOT’s Kansas City District. They are about to complete repaving 26 miles of I-29 at a cost of $20.9 million.

The 2017 parts of the project are divided into three sections, Black said.

The first was just north of Platte City south to the Todd Creek Bridge. A second was from Todd Creek to U.S. 69 near Vivion Road in both Platte and Clay counties. The final section is from Parvin Road to Missouri 210 in Clay County.

Contracts for a gap between the second and third projects will be awarded in 2018. Some ramp and lane additions or upgrades are also part of the project.

I recall repairs to bridges in earlier years that did mightily test commuter patience. Maybe that’s why fresh pavement going down without major headaches for drivers is noticeable.

I recall also new pavement in Buchanan County and parts farther north while I-29 in Platte County seemed to be crumbling apart. Now I know a plan was in place.

“We are milling off several layers of old asphalt and replacing with a new surface consisting of Superpave asphalt pavement,” Black said via email. “The depth is anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3.75 inches overlay depending on what we are removing.”

So what the heck isSuperpave?

Superpave stands for Superior Performing Asphalt Paving Systems. It is a registered trademark by the National Academy of Sciences.

Imagine that, science is important.

 The paving system was developed primarily with your federal tax dollars under a federal, state and private research effort called the Strategic Highway Research Program authorized by Congress. Superpave simplified is using specific formulas of rock, asphalt, binders such as clay dust, and other things, blending all those ingredients according to climate and predicted traffic load, and laying it town with sophisticated machinery.

Sometimes they worked during the day, but mostly it was at night when traffic was lighter.

What’s left to do this year is mostly pavement marking in October. This paving treatment is expected to last five to 10 years, Black said.

Who knows what highway paving technology will be like in another decade? Some things do get better in time, especially when government embraces science.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at