St. Louis man asks public to pay for highway median barriers

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- A man who lost four relatives in a fatal traffic crash is asking individuals to each finance a foot of highway barriers for wherever they're most needed.

Lou Holtmann, a resident of the St. Louis suburb of Oakville, is working to raise $100,000 to fund about a mile of median cable barriers on a state highway. He wants members of the public to contribute one foot, or about $20 worth per person.

Holtmann, 56, contributed $20,000 of his own money for two billboards soliciting donations for his effort.

The billboards show his wife and daughter and carry the message "Death is forever..." In July 1996, they, his sister-in-law and nephew were killed in an accident on Interstate 44 near Stanton. His family members died when an eastbound truck rolled into the westbound lanes and crushed their minivan.

"Even if we just get one mile covered, that's one less mile where someone can be killed in a crossover," he said.

The Missouri Department of Transportation put up barriers at the site after the accident, but Holtmann also decided to take action to try to do something proactive.

He formed a nonprofit group called Citizens for Safe Medians. At the moment, it's made up mainly of his friends and family.

Holtmann wants to take advantage of a program sponsored by the highway department, in which it funds 50 percent of a project if another entity is willing to fund the other half.

Every six months, Holtmann plans to alter the message and the locations of his billboards.

He also plans to have a presence at public gatherings and festivals. He said he'll drive his RV, which advertises the group, in the Fair St. Louis parade.

Holtmann has retired from his job as vice president of an air freight company to dedicate his time to the cause.

"I can tell you that the need is there because it cost me my family," he said.

State design engineer for MoDOT Diane Heckemeyer said Holtmann should be commended for his work. "He's putting forth this effort, recognizing that MoDOT can't afford to put up barriers on every mile of highway."

Heckemeyer said the department plans to string guard cable on Interstate 70 in unprotected medians between St. Louis and Kansas City. If Holtmann's campaign is successful, the mile paid for by his group probably will be on Interstate 70.

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