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 moving minnesota through employee communication
 December 19, 2001
No. 42
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This week's top stories
Mn/DOT, two Russian states sign knowledge transfer agreement
Mn/DOT marks number of milestones in 25 years
Budget shortfall to make all state agencies tighten belts
Offices move to save rental costs, use existing space more efficiently
Regional transportation library plans based on Mn/DOT model
Check Commissioner’s Web site for ‘official’ memos
Mn/DOT employees help students to ‘see the big picture’
Nominations accepted for Pride awards
 Mn/DOT, two Russian states sign knowledge transfer agreement

Woman, 2 men at conference table

Anna Tsaplina, a Russian transportation official, joins Deputy Commissioner Doug Weiszhaar (center) and Marthand Nookala, assistant director, Program Support Group, in discussion during the meeting where officials from Mn/DOT and the Russian states of Kemerovo and Tomsk signed an agreement to share information and technical expertise. Photo by Dave Gonzalez

Two senior engineer-level representatives from the Russian oblasts (states) of Kemerovo and Tomsk will visit Minnesota next year to learn highway maintenance techniques that Mn/DOT uses and to develop a curriculum to teach them to Russian highway managers, supervisors and workers.

Their visit stems from an agreement Mn/DOT and the two Russian Siberian states made to share knowledge related to areas such as winter road maintenance, bridge construction and maintenance and drainage and other methods for working with wet soils.

The Russian representatives will work with Mn/DOT maintenance staff and participate in coursework at the National Highway Institute in Washington, D.C., in order to become key experts when they return to Russia.

The agreement follows a visit by Russian officials to Minnesota last week and a visit to Russia by representatives from Mn/DOT and the Center for Transportation Studies in December 2000.

Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg; Alexey Belokobilsky, chief engineer of the Kemerovo Highway Administration; and Nadezhda Sobol, deputy director of the Tomsk Highway Administration, signed the agreement.

Tracy Busch, an official with the Federal Highway Administration, said Minnesota, Kemerovo and Tomsk will become "sister states" as they begin the process of knowledge transfer. Six other U.S. states have similar arrangements, she said.

Minnesota and the two Russian states share similarities in topography and climate as well as rapidly increasing demands on their transportation systems, said Anna Tsaplina, deputy director of RADOR, the Russian equivalent of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The five-member Russian delegation spent five days in Minnesota and in Washington, D.C., learning about several aspects of transportation ranging from maintenance practices to strategies to secure funding for transportation programs.

"This exchange program will increase our knowledge base and lead to improvements in maintenance practices for Minnesota as well as for Kemerovo and Tomsk," said Marthand Nookala, assistant director of the Program Support Group and chairman of Mn/DOT’s International Knowledge Transfer Program, who helped draft the international agreement.

In addition to the new agreement with Russia, Mn/DOT also maintains knowledge transfer programs with Finland, Sweden and Norway.

By Craig Wilkins


 Mn/DOT marks number of milestones in 25 years

25th anniversary logo

Editor’s note: This concludes our series of articles looking back on the department’s first 25 years—remembering the people, issues and cultural forces that have shaped the agency and the milestones Mn/DOT has achieved.

You don’t have to be a historian—or even a transportation employee—to appreciate Mn/DOT’s contributions over the past 25 years to "Moving Minnesota." On the rails, in the air, on the road and just about everywhere a vehicle or person can go, the department has improved the quality of transportation and transportation choices this state offers.

While no list of the department’s accomplishments could ever be comprehensive, here’s a glimpse at a few of Mn/DOT’s milestones over the past 25 years:


  • Gov. Wendell Anderson signs a proclamation establishing the Minnesota Department of Transportation on Nov. 8

Travel rest area on summer day

The Beaver Creek Travel Information Center on I-90 hosts thousands of visitors each year. The center provides a welcome place to help visitors learn about the state’s attractions. File photo


  • One million visitors stop at travel information centers at Dresbach, Moorhead, Beaver Creek, Thompson Hill and Albert Lea


  • Mn/DOT plays a vital role in winning authorization for direct transatlantic flights to Europe from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport

  • Final section of I-90 in Minnesota—a 14-mile stretch from north of Guckeen to Hwy 254 north of Frost—is completed


  • Minnesota Rideshare encourages the public to reshape their commuting habits


  • First weigh-in-motion truck scale is installed on I-494 in Bloomington


  • Mn/DOT allows Minnesota growers to move an extra 10 percent weight of farm commodities by truck

Jet liners on ground

A jetliner awaits fueling and other servicing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Commercial aviation provides a vital transportation link throughout the state. File photo


  • Channel 17 begins continuous broadcasts of weather radar and information for aviators and the general public


  • Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program begins to increase truck and bus roadside safety inspections and audits of carrier operations


  • New High Bridge opens in St. Paul

  • Final section of I-94—east of St. Paul from Lakeland to the St. Croix Bridge—in Minnesota and the U.S. is completed

  • Mn/DOT’s Highway Helper program begins in Twin Cities to aid stranded motorists and keep traffic moving

Aerial view of Wabasha bridge

The Wabasha Bridge carries Hwy 60 into Wisconsin over the Mississippi River at Wabasha. The bridge was rebuilt in 1987 to replace an antiquated structure. Construction of the bridge included floating its center span down the river on a barge to allow it to be put in place from the water. File photo


  • New bridge over Mississippi River at Wabasha opens, connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin

  • Legislature approves state gas tax increase from 17 cents to 20 cents per gallon to fund highway and other transportation needs


  • Adopt-A-Highway begins to keep state highways clean with volunteer help


  • Halloween megastorm requires $6 million effort by Mn/DOT to get Minnesota moving again

  • Landmark federal legislation (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) gives states more latitude to meet transportation needs, increase public participation in decision-making, and focus additional concern on the environment, safety and planning


  • Completion of I-35 in downtown Duluth marks finish of the 42,500-mile interstate highway system that began in 1956

  • I-394 in western Twin Cities completed with the first high occupancy vehicle lanes in Minnesota

Aerial photo of research road

The Minnesota Road Research facility on I-94 near Monticello uses the actual freeway as a laboratory to test the performance of various pavement designs. Sensors in the pavement give researchers a detailed picture of how the pavement behaves under stress from weather, load and other factors. File photo


  • Stone Arch Bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis opens exclusively for bike and pedestrian use

  • Silver Creek Tunnel near Two Harbors on Hwy 61 is completed

  • Mn/ROAD, a real world transportation research lab, opens on I-94 near Monticello


  • Mn/DOT’s Work Zone Safety Speakers Bureau begins to take work zone safety message to schools, service clubs and other community organizations


  • Mn/DOT helps with cleanup of devastating spring floods along the Red River and other rivers around the state

Duluth port

A Great Lakes freighter approaches the Duluth Harbor. Shipping via Lake Superior and the state’s rivers comprises a major share of Minnesota’s freight movements. File photo


  • Mn/DOT provides funds for Duluth to dredge its harbor to allow passenger ships to dock, sparking the return of foreign and domestic ships to Minnesota


  • Hwy 52, a high-priority interregional corridor, begins the journey toward becoming a freeway with limited access points

  • Moving Minnesota program begins with $459 million in one-time funding approved by the legislature: $177 million for bottleneck removal, $177 million for corridor connections, $5 million for advantages for transit plus $100 million in trunk highway bonds

  • New seven-mile section of Hwy 371 opens in Brainerd to enable traffic to skirt the western edge of the city

In 2001, fatal vehicle/train crashes dropped to a record low—three crashes compared to a high of 36 crashes in 1970. File photo


  • 82 percent of Minnesota counties have public transit service

  • Groundbreaking for 11.6-mile Hiawatha light rail transit line from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America, which will be operational by October 2003 with full service by 2004

  • Fatal vehicle/train crashes drop to a record low—three crashes compared to a high of 36 crashes in 1970

  • Mn/DOT celebrates 25 years of Moving Minnesota on Nov. 8

As the lyrics to "Moving Minnesota" say:
There's five million reasons
We come to work each day
Moving Minnesota to tomorrow
Together, moving Minnesota to tomorrow
Together, today.

--"Moving Minnesota," lyrics by Tom Broadbent


 Budget shortfall to make all state agencies tighten belts

Mn/DOT will participate in balancing the state’s budget, but it is unclear the extent to which the department will be affected.

Faced with a projected state budget shortfall, the Department of Finance in November requested all state agencies to submit proposed budget reductions of 5 percent and 10 percent. On Dec. 4, the Department of Finance announced that Minnesota’s projected state budget shortfall was $1.95 billion—nearly double what it had expected.

Mn/DOT has already identified biennial budget shifts of $30 million by substantially participating in the governor's Challenge Pool, which encouraged agencies to identify lower priority efforts and redirect those resources to higher priorities. Those changes were based on Mn/DOT's strategic plan and Moving Minnesota priorities, as outlined in the governor's transportation investment strategy of 2000.

The department will continue to work aggressively—including reallocating staff and financial resources—to deliver the Moving Minnesota projects already programmed with $459 million in one-time funding from the 2000 Legislature, according to Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg. The deadline for delivering the Moving Minnesota projects is June 2003.

"Given the state budget shortfall, it is more important than ever to use those resources as efficiently as possible and to direct them toward the priorities of this administration," Tinklenberg said.

Tinklenberg added that the department’s work in streamlining processes, outsourcing certain functions and doing more business electronically has already helped it to use its resources more efficiently.

For more information, see the Dec. 5 Mn/DOT Newsline article. See also the Moving Minnesota projects update.


 Offices move to save rental costs, use existing space more efficiently

Three offices located in the Ford Building on University Avenue are part of Mn/DOT’s efforts to achieve budget savings by moving to facilities the department owns or leases at a lower cost.

The Sustainable Transportation Initiatives Unit will move to the 10th floor of the Kelly Inn on Dec. 20, joining the Traffic Engineering/ITS Unit (the former Office of Advanced Transportation Systems), which moved to the same floor of the Kelly Inn on Dec. 17.

Another work group housed in the Ford Building, the GIS/Project Administration Unit, will move to the Transportation Building’s third floor before Jan. 15.

In addition, the Office of Audit, now located in the Sloan Place office park in Maplewood, is scheduled to move into the Central Office in February or March.

Telephone numbers and Mail Stop numbers for the affected offices remain the same.

Mn/DOT now spends more than $800,000 yearly to rent office space.

Ed Clarke, Administrative Services director, said the office moves reflect Mn/DOT’s strategy to reduce its operating costs.

"The overall objective is to save money by reducing the total number of rental facilities and to use Mn/DOT-owned space more effectively in locations such as Golden Valley, Oakdale and the Central Office," he said.

"As leases expire, when it’s not prudent or feasible to terminate them early, we plan to move from rental properties to space owned by Mn/DOT. In addition, we can achieve some administrative savings by sharing receptionists, office managers and other administrative staff by having offices work together in consolidated facilities."

Adds Pat Hughes, Program Support Group director: "By having all Mn/DOT offices in department-owned facilities, we can realize cost savings, improve communication and tie functions together so they are more in touch with other units and increase their sense of commonality and mutual purpose with other employees."

By Craig Wilkins


 Regional transportation library plans based on Mn/DOT model

Mn/DOT’s library is serving as the model for a Midwest network of transportation libraries. Representatives from eight state transportation departments, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan and the National Transportation Library met on Dec. 5 and 6 to discuss plans to have a better exchange of resources and services.

The meeting, sponsored by National Transportation Library and held at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies, focused on the increasing demand for transportation information and the need to develop networks of libraries that share resources and services.

"Mn/DOT is unique in that we provide services to the entire transportation community, not only our own staff," said Jerry Baldwin, Mn/DOT library director. "Other states recognize the need to emulate our services and create a regional and national network for access to transportation resources."

Baldwin says that "the Minnesota model" is a phrase that has come to be used to refer to the unique agreement behind the Minnesota Transportation Libraries program and the services it provides. The primary goal of MTL—which is co-sponsored by CTS, Mn/DOT and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board—is to improve access to transportation-related information resources and services for the state's entire transportation community.

The group will reconvene in March or April to continue discussions toward building the network. In the interim, librarians from Minnesota and Northwestern University will draft an agreement for exchange and sharing of information resources. For more information, contact Jerry Baldwin at 651/297-4532 or

By Gail Gendler


 Check Commissioner’s Web site for ‘official’ memos

Web graphic of Commissioner's memos

The commissioner's memos are available on a special Web site.

Last week, the Commissioner’s Office released a memorandum announcing the creation of a seven-member Security Task Force to examine and improve the security of Mn/DOT’s buildings, bridges and other built infrastructure. For more information, visit the Commissioner’s memos page on the inThetranet.


 Mn/DOT employees help students to ‘see the big picture’

People in orange vests in field

Plantings may or may not be part of the transportation project selected by the Twin Cities Academy students, but these young people participating in the Stevens Square landscaping partnership also learned a lot from Scott Bradley (kneeling), as well as Rick Bonlender (standing, far right). Photo by Kevin Walker

Middle school students don’t normally talk about ‘context sensitive design’ and ‘traffic calming.’ However, eighth graders at the Twin Cities Academy charter school in St. Paul have developed this interest thanks to last week’s school visit by Mn/DOT principal landscape architect Scott Bradley.

Bradley visited as part of an Eco Education Urban Stewards Project, a speaker’s bureau that works with schools to educate students on environmental issues.

"The program tries to instill an inquisitive approach to looking at how we fit into our environment," Bradley said. "Students were asked to pick a project that they could investigate and possibly do something about."

They eventually chose a transportation project because "they are concerned about the speed of the traffic on Randolph Avenue just outside their school," he said.

Besides showing and discussing photos from Mn/DOT projects and highlighting scientific principles involved in each case, Bradley promoted the big picture.

"I talked about the larger picture of transportation statewide," he explained. "I talked about trying to balance safety with mobility, environmental concerns with community needs, to come up with a context-sensitive design. We focused on projects where the balance of these factors could be complex."

Behavioral science principles got most of the students’ attention, so Bradley discussed ways to influence drivers’ behavior.

"We looked at how you can make a road LOOK narrower without actually MAKING it narrower," he said, such as use of medians, contrasting pavement and shoulder colors, location of edge plantings and banners.

By the end of the day, Bradley knew he had connected. "The students had become particularly interested in traffic calming ideas they could investigate on Randolph Avenue," he said, "and in how physics and chemistry were connected to everything. I wasn’t anticipating that their questions would be so sophisticated."

Generating enthusiasm for math, science, technology and transportation is one of Mn/DOT’s goals in education outreach programs—in both employee-initiated efforts and in management-sponsored initiatives.

Students, teacher looking at PC

Tours of Mn/DOT facilities form an important part of several Mn/DOT education outreach programs, including Aeronautics, Seeds, TRAC and Explorer. These students tour the Materials Laboratory in Maplewood. Photo by Craig Wilkins

The ‘power of one’

Employee-initiated programs include one-on-one reading and math programs for grade and high school students. District 4 Project Management Engineer Lori Vanderhider began such a math-tutoring program when she was a graduate engineer in District 3.

Her coworkers’ strong interest in her efforts led her to obtain management approval for volunteers to tutor during the work day when schools were in session. Nineteen volunteers, or 15 percent of Brainerd’s in-house employees, she said, tutored weekly during the 1994-95 school year.

Volunteers used flex time, vacation time, or lunch hours—or made time up—to tutor, judge writing contests and a toothpick bridge building contest, and pair with students for "shadowing," she said.

Vanderhider described how her efforts helped one young boy who was flunking math.

"The teacher had said there was no way he’d pass math at the end of the school year, but we kept plugging away," she said. "He asked me to give him his final test, and he did great—he got 100 percent correct. His classmates practically applauded. I left the school in tears that day. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in you."

Tutoring children can lead to helping their parents as well, Vanderhider said.

"One mother asked me for tutoring for herself," Vanderhider said. "Tests showed that she could be good in engineering. Now, she’s a civil engineering tech who works for the county. I have a lot of respect for her; she was a welfare mom with two kids, and she’d drive in for classes in her old beater of a car. She just wouldn’t give up."

Web graphic for US DOT site

This colorful Web site by the US DOT features many useful links for people who want to learn about aircraft and flying, but the only education link listed leads back to Mn/DOT Aeronautics’ site.

Using a ‘hands-on’ approach for aviation education

Mn/DOT Aeronautics offers several programs to encourage students’ interests in math, science, technology and aviation industry careers. This includes a speakers bureau and tours of aviation facilities for schools and groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

"We take several large containers full of plane parts to the schools," said Janese Buzzell, aviation education manager. "We’ll show the kids what the part is and how it helps make the aircraft work. Kids just love to be able to touch parts of the aircraft like the brake, windshield, or a piece of the wing section."

Aeronautics’ Web site, which is "the only curriculum link from the Federal DOT Web site," Buzzell said, provides an easy outlet for reaching school teachers and students. The Aeronautics Web site features links to:

  • Summer Aviation Career Education Camps for grades 10-12;

  • International aviation art contests; and

  • Downloadable school curricula developed by Aeronautics’ staff, the Federal Aviation Administration, and teachers who’ve attended Mn/DOT’s yearly Transportation Education Academy.

"We supply over 1,000 teachers a year with our aviation curricula and materials," Buzzell said. "We also visit about three to five schools a month on average."

Woman, 2 men at PC

Teacher evaluations are an important part of any education outreach effort, which is why Sue Stein (left) and former District 8 TRAC coordinator Rob Mortensen (center, back) visit with this teacher (right, front) as he evaluates the interactive computer program on the computer screen. Staff photo

Mn/DOT Engineering Explorer

Mn/DOT also offers Explorer through the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

"The Mn/DOT Engineering Explorer program is a co-educational scouting activity that focuses on transportation-related careers," said Emeric Pratt, outreach program coordinator. "We don’t formally teach them, but we do bring activities into a classroom setting with students and their parents. We were also able to offer some summer internship positions last year. We now have some interns returning from previous years."

Pratt added that the parents benefited as much as the students. "The parents ask more questions than the kids, and keep saying, ‘We didn’t have anything like this when we were kids,’" he said.

TRAC can lead to transportation-related careers

Thirty-eight Minnesota middle schools and high schools participate in TRAC, a program the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sponsors, which takes a different approach.

"TRAC is geared towards women and minority students," explained Pratt. "It came about because AASHTO was looking at the future of transportation and the need for women and minorities to enter civil engineering. They developed this program in which transportation employees go into classrooms to help teachers with a transportation-related curriculum."

2 women in orange vests outdoors

Sarah Caliguire (left), St. Cloud State University Seeds student working for Mn/DOT District 3 Public Affairs in St. Cloud, and Cathy Clark, District 3 Public Affairs, visited the reconstruction of Hwy 12 near Howard Lake in Wright County field last summer. The Seeds program encourages site visits to learn about the various types of road work. Photo by Mike Travis

Seeds program grows employees

These education outreach programs have a side benefit for Mn/DOT: they can enlarge the pool of qualified applicants for Mn/DOT’s technology positions.

"It’s all part of ‘targeted early recruitment’ by Mn/DOT," said Emma Corrie, Seeds program manager, adding that she thinks this continuum of programs is beginning to affect Mn/DOT’s recruitment pool.

"In recent years, we’re seeing a lot more qualified minority applicants in the colleges and technical schools," she said.

Seeds began in 1994 under the inspiration of former Mn/DOT employee Ike McCrary and former Commissioner Jim Denn. From minority or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Seeds students attend school full-time while working part-time at Mn/DOT.

"Although some students want to work 40 hours and still go to school, the program emphasizes school first," Corrie said. "We bring in qualified students, nurture their potential, expect good grades and performance, provide training and mentoring, and finally upon graduation, we can transition into permanent placement."


 Nominations accepted for Pride awards

Know a Mn/DOT employee or transportation partner who exemplifies the best in transportation leadership, management or information delivery? Now is your opportunity to nominate them for a Mn/DOT Pride Award. Winners will receive their awards at a ceremony during the Transportation Conference in February.

To nominate someone, print and complete a nomination form. Your note can be short but must include examples to support your nominee’s performance in one of the three business areas. You can find the form at: Send the completed form to Kathy Lehner at MS 150 or 651/297-4776 (fax). The nomination deadline for Mn/DOT Pride Awards is Friday, Jan. 11.


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