August 28, 2014

Central Office

Kansas City
St. Louis

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Central Office
Interview With a Chemist
Those that check MoDOT’s Flickr site regularly may have noticed a recent photo album showing Senior Chemist Jeff Wilson testing an asphalt sample in the lab. They say a picture can paint a thousand words, but I was still left wondering what was going on in these pictures. I reached out to Jeff to find out.

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Senior Chemist Jeff Wilson has to perform 12 different tests on this asphalt sample to analyze for viscosity, specific gravity and flash point.

Hey Jeff, tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you worked at MoDOT and where were you working previously?
I’ve been working for MoDOT and testing asphalt for about two and a half months. Before that I tested water and soil for the DNR environmental lab for over 17 years. I have a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, which qualified me to work at with DNR testing drinking water, nondrinking water, soil, organics, air, and miscellaneous samples for lead, mercury, arsenic and about 20 other metals on fancy instruments.

What led you to be a chemist?

I like science. I like the objective nature of it and reduction of the subjective. The results that come to be tentatively accepted are based upon multiple, independent and reliable sources.

The photos of you testing asphalt in the chemical lab are very intriguing. Can you tell us what you are doing in these photos?

These pictures were taken while I was in the process of doing about a dozen tests on one asphalt sample taken from a source tank. I have to weigh out and pour specific amounts into various vessels according to AASHTO methods to analyze the sample for viscosity, specific gravity and flash point. We also test the sample using the Rolling Thin-Film Oven (RFTO) and Dynamic Shear Rheometer (DSR) tests.

It has been a while since I have been in a science class. Can you explain that a bit more?
The viscosity is the resistance to flow - as an example think of heavy maple syrup. Specific gravity is the ratio of the sample’s mass relative to water. When we are testing for flash point, we are making sure the flammability doesn’t occur at less than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is important for material transportation. The RTFO simulates manufacturing and placement aging. The RTFO aged asphalt binder samples are placed in stainless steel pans for 20 hours in a heated vessel pressurized to 305 psi at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The 20 hours of heat and high pressure simulates the conditions the asphalt will endure over a seven to 10 year period on the highway. After the RTFO test, we bend the sample to measure how much it flexes and much resilience it retains at below freezing to test how it will hold up after an estimated 10 winters. The DSR tests determine the viscous and elastic behavior of asphalt binders at medium to high temperatures.

We basically pull it, push it, bake it, broil it, freeze it, bend it, pressurize it, and age it to determine how suitable it is for our highways and roads.

To view this photo album go to:

Multimodal Staff Tour Missouri River Ports
Multimodal Operations Director Michelle Teel, Administrator of Freight and Waterways Cheryl Ball and Senior Multimodal Operations Specialist Bryan Ross toured the Missouri River barge facilities with the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers on Aug. 12.

Interested stakeholders in both the private and public sectors discussed on-going projects from Glasgow to Boonville. The two-hour boat trip also included discussions on two projects that are attempting to restore shallow water habit balanced with river navigation needs.
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted a tour of barge operations along from the Missouri River. Stakeholders departed from Glasgow for the trip to Boonville.  

The Howard /Cooper County Port is one of 14 public ports statewide, and one of only three on the Missouri River. It’s located on the north bank of the river at Boonville. Photos by Brian Ross.

Bridge Division Dusts Off 89 Year-Old Type Book
At times it can be difficult to remember life without the luxury of technology. Before electronic databases, MoDOT engineers used type books to find "like structure" details to assist them in designing new projects. According to Structural Project Manager Dean Frank, finding like structure details speeds up the design and detailing process of bridge plans.

bridge bookRecently, MoDOT’s bridge division came across an old type book containing handwritten details on superstructures such as i-beams, arches, and suspension bridges dating back to 1925.

State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman gave the example of how a book such as the one found would be used.

“If I needed a new single span bridge with a length of 80 feet, I would use the book (like we use the database now) to see if there is a similar structure,” said Heckman. “If I find one, I can use that design for the new bridge rather than starting from scratch. I will still have to design the new bridge for a specific site but it will save time and money finding already existing like structures.”
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Preventing Back Pain
back painClick here to read Coventry's wellness flier on how to prevent back pain, and how to manage back pain if you have it. There's great information on this two-page flier and it even has a section on how to get moving.

Check it out - Back Pain.
Central Office Happenings
mee zone logoMEE Zone Events
CPR/First Aid Classes
Sept. 11 - 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
601 West Main St, Training Room B

Enroll using the LMS Student Center
Amanda Henley 573-526-5617

Get the Facts on Parkinson’s Disease
By Jen Urich, Capital Region physical therapist
Sept. 18 - 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
CO Human Resources Training Room B, 601 West Main, Jefferson City
or from anywhere via video conference

Jen Urich specializes in neurological disorders and spinal pain and has been practicing for over 42 years. She is also involved in coordination the Jefferson City Parkinson’s support group.

Enroll using the LMS Student Center.

For questions, or to register using video conferencing, contact:
Amanda Henley 573-526-5617

Missouri Voluntary Life Insurance
Aug. 28 and 29 - 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Room 203, 105 West Capitol Ave.
Sept. 10 and 11 - 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Human Resources Library, 601 West Main St.
No appointment needed, just stop by.

Phil Jones will talk with employees about MoVLIC, a state-sponsored life insurance and long-term benefit for you and your family. This permanent insurance is provided during your tenure with the state and paid for through payroll deductions. Special universal life and long term care coverage for you and your dependents have been contracted by the state.

Can’t make it to one of the sessions? Contact Phil Jones directly with any questions at or

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