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 moving minnesota through employee communication
 February 6, 2002
No. 47 
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This week's top stories
New I-35W/Crosstown plan increases capacity, requires fewer road closures
Changes planned for EEO, Contract Management, Consultant Services offices
Legislative hearings begin on commuter rail project
Mn/DOT disputes claims by watershed district on Camp Coldwater pumping  
St. Cloud’s buses get more ‘green time’ in intersections
Computer model helps planners determine potential for archaeological sites
Delegation from former Soviet Union to visit Mn/DOT
Three appointed to management positions in Metro Division
In the mail
 New I-35W/Crosstown plan increases capacity, requires fewer road closures

logo for 35/Crosstown project

As required, Mn/DOT delivered a new proposal for reconstructing the I-35W/Crosstown interchange to the Legislature last week. More capacity, fewer roadway shutdowns—and a larger price tag—are highlights of the new proposal.

More capacity and fewer roadway shutdowns are highlights of a new proposal for reconstructing the I-35W/Crosstown interchange, Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg announced Feb. 1 at a news conference at the Cedar Avenue Truck Station.

"This proposal more effectively balances the needs of the communities around the project with the needs of the citizens who travel on the corridor each day. It adds capacity, reduces construction delay and provides a significant advantage for transit with the incorporation of an high occupancy vehicle lane," he said.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature directed Mn/DOT to conduct the study and return with the findings at the beginning of this year’s legislative session. The new proposal is a recommendation from a consultant’s study delivered to the Legislature last week.

The I-35W/Crosstown study began in August guided by an advisory committee of state legislators and community leaders representing communities along the freeway as well as commuters who travel through the interchange.

The proposal’s improved capacity comes from the addition of two full through lanes on Hwy 62 instead of the originally proposed one through lane. I-35W will have an additional lane north of the interchange. Mn/DOT is also pursuing the addition of a high occupancy vehicle lane north of 46th Street into downtown Minneapolis. This would provide for five lanes in each direction.

"This interstate carries more transit than any other corridor in the region," Tinklenberg said. "An HOV lane into downtown Minneapolis is critical to increasing transit use. It provides an advantage to riding a bus that cannot be matched by bus-only shoulder lanes."

Construction closures would run from two to eight weeks, compared to three to four years under the original plan. The new proposal will require more right-of-way. Preliminary estimates indicate the need to purchase another six to 12 homes. The cost of the project would increase approximately 40 percent.

"This is clearly not a cost we had developed in our transportation investment program," Tinklenberg said, explaining that to deliver the project, Mn/DOT will need to find $80 million in new funding, or it will need to defer one or more Metro area projects, or reduce the scope and cost of one or more Metro area projects. He added that the situation is made more difficult by a preliminary indication that there may be a dramatic reduction in federal funds available to the state, as well as by significant inflationary increases in construction costs.

"This issue highlights the need for increased long-term transportation funding," he said. "The Legislature has continued to under-fund transportation while demand has grown. It’s time for the state to have a dedicated source of money for transportation that will provide for these increasing needs."

For maps and more information, visit the I-35W/Crosstown Web site.

By Kevin Gutknecht, Metro communications director


 Changes planned for EEO, Contract Management, Consultant Services offices

The Senior Management Team approved recommendations Feb. 5 to consolidate the offices of Contract Management and Equal Employment Opportunity Contract Management and to distribute the core functions of the Office of Consultant Services to the districts, Metro Division, Office of Investment Management and Office of Technical Support.

"Our next step is to develop an implementation plan for how this will occur," said Dick Stehr, Program Support Group acting director and Mn/DOT’s change management leader.

Stehr met with managers and staff of the affected offices on Tuesday and Wednesday to talk about the changes, which are part of Mn/DOT’s Shaping Our Future plan that envisions a distributed products and services model for the organization.

"When instituting change, people make the difference," Stehr told Program Support Group employees who packed the Central Office cafeteria Wednesday afternoon. "No plan is perfect, but I have confidence that people like you can make this change work."

Employees with questions about Mn/DOT’s Shaping Our Future efforts may send them to; the Office of Communications and Public Relations will forward the questions to the appropriate person for response. Stehr also encouraged employees to talk to their managers and to visit the Shaping Our Future Web site for links to a number of planning documents and Commissioner’s Office memos.


 Legislative hearings begin on commuter rail project

Commuter rail map

The proposed Northstar Corridor Rail project would use existing tracks along an 82-mile corridor from downtown Minneapolis to St. Cloud/Rice along Hwy 47 and Hwy 10. The corridor is the fastest growing region in the state. Graphic from Northstar Commuter Rail Web site

In the first legislative hearing on the governor’s commuter rail proposal, Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg Feb. 4 urged lawmakers to approve a bonding bill that would dedicate $120 million in state funds for the Northstar Corridor Rail project.

"You’ve heard the phrase ‘We can’t build our way out of congestion.’ Let me tell you we can’t hope our way out either," Tinklenberg said. "We do need to build. What we need to build is an integrated managed transportation system that creates attractive alternatives and is focused on the customer."

Tinklenberg added that a recent poll showed eight out of 10 people surveyed along the corridor between Minneapolis and St. Cloud believe commuter rail is a good idea.

Fastest growing corridor in the state

The proposed Northstar Corridor Rail project would use existing tracks along an 82-mile corridor from downtown Minneapolis to St. Cloud/Rice along Hwy 47 and Hwy 10. The corridor is the fastest growing region in the state and one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. Currently, more than 73,000 vehicles travel parts of Hwy 10 every day. By 2025, traffic volumes are projected to increase between 41 percent and 109 percent.

"Counties in the Northstar corridor are predicted to grow at double-digit rates for the next two decades. Our roads alone cannot keep up with the increasing travel demand that will result from this kind of growth," Tinklenberg said.

With 11 proposed stations, the Northstar line is expected to carry 9,600 passengers per day when it begins operating in December 2005. Once downtown, passengers will be able to transfer to buses and to the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line.

Federal funding at stake

Capital expenses for Northstar are estimated at $294 million. Funding would be split $147 million federal, $120 million state and $27 million counties. Tinklenberg noted the federal funding mechanism for Northstar requires state matching funds.

"Minnesota is in line to receive $140 million in federal funds. But we will only get federal money if the Legislature approves state funds." Tinklenberg said. "Failure to act will mean that $147 million dollars will not come to Minnesota, but instead go to one or more of two dozen other cities that are competing for the funding."


"Losing federal funding on Northstar could be a double whammy for the state because it would come at the same time that Federal Highway Administration has informed us that there may be a dramatic reduction in federal funds for highway construction." Tinklenberg added the issue highlights the need for increased long-term funding for transportation to ensure that Mn/DOT can meet future demands on the state’s transportation system.

"I am convinced that commuter rail—when combined with a well-funded, long-term road construction program—must be a part of the solution in this corridor and others. We can make our state more secure, and protect our mobility and quality of life," he said.

Several local groups also testified in favor of the Northstar project, including cities and counties along the corridor, representatives of the American Legion, the Minneapolis Downtown Council and senior citizens. More hearings are anticipated later in the legislative session.

See also:

By Pat Lund


 Mn/DOT disputes claims by watershed district on Camp Coldwater pumping  

Metro Division officials dispute findings announced by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District that the partly completed Hwy 55/ Hwy 62 interchange near Fort Snelling significantly reduced the underground water flow that feeds the historic Camp Coldwater spring.

Mn/DOT cancelled work on the interchange last fall until the dispute over the effects of pumping—needed to allow construction of the interchange—is resolved.

Watershed officials said the pumping decreased the flow of water by 30 percent last summer.

Bob Winter, acting Metro Division engineer, challenged the finding, noting that testing from as far as 2.5 miles away showed the same fluctuations—suggesting natural variations in flow and influences of other non-Mn/DOT projects.

All of those considerations, Winter said, make it impossible to say the interchange construction is causing a change in flow to the spring.

Last year a consultant Mn/DOT hired and the district suggested building a concrete barrier to divert water past the highway and its drainage system and send it back toward the spring. The barrier, however, would add from $4 to $8 million to the $16 million project.

"We are disappointed and at loss as to why the district would make this assertion when all parties agreed that additional tests need to be done," Winter said. "Mn/DOT is committed to finding a design that all parties, including the Department of Natural Resources, the watershed districts and the Federal Highway Administration, can be comfortable with."

By Craig Wilkins


 St. Cloud’s buses get more ‘green time’ in intersections

Bus entering a controlled intersection

A St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission bus driver uses the transit priority system available to buses on green lights to turn into an intersection on Division Street in downtown St. Cloud. Photo by Dave Gonzalez

As they enter signalized intersections, St. Cloud’s transit buses will have an advantage over other vehicles—an electronic system that extends the duration of green lights and gives the buses extra time to get through the intersection and stay on schedule.

The buses will be equipped with devices that send light wave signals to sensors connected to traffic lights in the city’s busiest intersections such as those along the Hwy 23 (Division Street) corridor. When completed in 2003, the system will include a total of 89 intersections throughout the St. Cloud metro area.

Once activated, the traffic signals stay green for the buses for an additional five to 15 seconds, giving them additional time to pass through or to turn.

The transit priority system allows drivers to operate at overall slower speeds, increase time at the curb to assist passenger boarding, meet transfer points on time more reliably and improve overall on-time performance, said Tom Cruikshank, planning director for the St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission.

The system’s 26 buses will use a version 3M’s Opticom system now used by the city of St. Paul to clear intersections for emergency vehicles.

Creation of the system stems from an agreement by Mn/DOT and the MTC to determine the system’s effectiveness as part of the department’s Intelligent Transportation Systems research and development efforts. St. Cloud’s transit priority system functions as a component of the St. Cloud Transportation Operations and Communications Center.

Jim Kranig, Intelligent Transportation Systems director with the Office of Traffic Engineering, said initial tests of the system showed many benefits for transit system operation and that motorists reported no negative effects from the system on their driving.

Cruikshank said the transit priority system underscores the TOCCs’ role of integrating several transportation modes, including transit, in their operations.

By Craig Wilkins


 Computer model helps planners determine potential for archaeological sites

A new computer-generated model gives Mn/DOT added capability to better predict the potential for encountering archeological sites when planning highway construction projects.

Known as Mn/Model, the initiative gives Mn/DOT planners advance warning of where sites are most likely to be found and helps speed construction by avoiding delays that result when projects coincide with archeological site locations.

"Knowing where sites might be will both help preserve our cultural heritage and streamline the process of planning and construction transportation projects," said Joe Hudak, Mn/Model project manager, Environmental Services. "We have been required by federal regulation to identify significant cultural resources since 1966. We expect this new method will be more accurate and reduce project costs."

Geographical information system and cultural resource experts developed the Mn/Model program to help avoid construction impacts to archeological sites throughout Minnesota.

"For example," Hudak said, "in the Hwy 16 project in Hokah, Mn/Model predicted a low potential for deeply buried archeological sites in the project area near the Root River. Without Mn/Model, a separate study would have been needed for the project on a very short schedule. Mn/Model helped us avoid a delay in the project."

The project’s final report and other information appear on Mn/DOT’s Web site at


 Delegation from former Soviet Union to visit Mn/DOT

Eighteen transportation experts from Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan will visit Minnesota next week to spend three days learning about Minnesota’s transportation system.

"The U.S. Commerce Department asked Minnesota to host the delegation because of Mn/DOT’s reputation as a leader in technology and management practices," said Doug Weiszhaar, Mn/DOT deputy commissioner.

"We have more in common with former Soviet Union and Scandinavian countries in terms of weather than we do with many U.S. states," said Weiszhaar, who visited Siberia last year on behalf of Mn/DOT. "It makes sense to develop ties with these countries so we can share information and develop new trade opportunities."

The international delegation, which arrives in the Twin Cities Feb. 11, will tour Mn/DOT maintenance facilities and the Mn/ROAD test site near Monticello, as well as the Caterpillar plant in Brooklyn Park and the 3M facilities in St. Paul.

The visit is just the latest information exchange between Mn/DOT and countries that share Minnesota’s climate. Mn/DOT recently formalized relationships with transportation agencies in Sweden, Finland and Norway. These partnerships enable the department to exchange improved techniques in anti-icing practices, road construction and maintenance, and traveler information.

By Pat Lund


 Three appointed to management positions in Metro Division

Bob Winter, Keith Shannon and Khani Sahebjam have taken on new management roles in Mn/DOT.

As of Jan. 2, Winter has assumed the responsibilities of acting Metro Division engineer for Dick Stehr while Stehr is on reassignment as acting director of the Program Support Group. Previously, Winter was Metro’s assistant division engineer.

He also has served in key management positions for light rail transit, rail transit and multi-modal projects and the reconstruction of I-35E and I-94. He has more than 30 years experience with Mn/DOT.

Shannon is the acting assistant division engineer. During his 23 years with Mn/DOT, Shannon has held a number of positions, including serving as Program Delivery director in Metro, assistant state bridge engineer and Metro maintenance operations engineer.

Now acting Program Delivery office director, Sahebjam has worked for Mn/DOT for 12 years. Previously, he was the assistant state bridge engineer.

Sahebjam also has had managerial and professional experience in State Aid, the Office of Research Administration and the Office of Bridges and Structures.

Keith Shannon

Keith Shannon
Bob Winter

Bob Winter
Khani Saheb

Khani Sahebjam


 In the mail

In 1961 when I moved to Silver Bay, traveling to Duluth was an "adventure" and a not very safe one at that! The improvements to Hwy 61 in the past 41 years have made today's trips to Duluth a VERY PLEASANT experience. I'm writing to simply thank Mn/DOT for the improvements to the quality of HWY 61! THANK YOU!!

Most sincerely,
Jim Linscheid, Silver Bay


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