The Missouri DOT is using free Web sites to allow drivers to sound off on issues like dedicated truck lanes and proposed road improvements.

Shortly after a 5.2-magnitude earthquake shook the Midwest in April, the department reported on www.modot blog.blogspot.com that there was no damage to more than half of 2,500 bridges in the state and linked visitors to the form agency inspectors use. The department used www.blogger.com to create the blog.

More than 6,000 people have viewed an agency-produced video posted on www.youtube.com in which Chief Engineer Kevin Keith explains how shared four-lane highways help the agency cost-effectively expand and contract road capacity. “That's 10 times as many people who would have made it to a public meeting,” says Web Content Manager Matt Hiebert.

While not all of the comments are positive, they've been thoughtful and well-considered. Hiebert or someone else within the agency provides additional information. For example, when a constituent asked why a road had been routed a particular way, the project engineer answered via e-mail.

“We're opening a dialogue with citizens,” he says. “Whether they choose to communicate is their decision.”