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  moving minnesota through employee communication September 25, 2002    No. 78  
  This week's top stories
 Rochester begins ITS project to manage Hwy 52 corridor traffic
 Renewed effort aims to achieve more diverse workforce
 Steady progress brings Hiawatha LRT to halfway completion mark
 Combined Charities drive provides one-stop method for community investment
 New study outlines plans to improve intermodal transportation movement in Winona
 Duluth Airport joins the state’s new Adopt-An-Airport program
 Star Tribune praises Tinklenberg for his clarity, courage

 Rochester begins ITS project to manage Hwy 52 corridor traffic

Traffic congestion

Traffic congestion continues to increase in Rochester on the Hwy 52 corridor spurred by the region’s economic and population growth. Photo by Rollin Larson

Rochester/District 6 will install its first surveillance cameras and electronic message signs on the Hwy 52 corridor in Rochester to monitor conditions and manage traffic on the increasingly busy highway.

The cameras will alert State Patrol dispatchers and traffic managers about conditions and enable them to issue warnings or advisory notices to motorists. The system will also enable managers to clear crashes in the corridor more quickly. Crashes can cause severe back-ups because of heavy traffic on the roadway.

The installation includes eight cameras and five message signs that will be located between 55th Street NW to Hwy 63 (South Broadway). The intelligent transportation system devices will be linked to the State Patrol dispatch center located at the district headquarters building by a wireless communication system.

During the past year, approximately 150 crashes occurred in on the Hwy 52 corridor in Rochester, creating serious traffic back-ups.

"The cameras will be used exclusively to monitor traffic conditions so that incidents such as crashes and stalls can be detected, monitored and cleared quickly," said Michael Schweyen, project manager.

Installation of the first set of cameras and message signs will provide helpful information to motorists during the design-build, best-value reconstruction of Hwy 52 known as ROC 52. Seven additional cameras and message signs will be added in the corridor on approaches to Hwy 52 as part of ROC 52.

The ITS project also includes the capability to monitor and coordinate timing traffic signals on major streets in Rochester to better manage local traffic during and after rebuilding Hwy 52.

The Rochester ITS project is part of a joint effort by Mn/DOT and the State Patrol to create an integrated network of nine transportation operations communications centers to serve communities outside the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here to learn more about Mn/DOT’s ITS programs.

By Brian Jergenson


 Renewed effort aims to achieve more diverse workforce

4 men

At Mn/DOT, the growing presence of people of color, people who have disabilities, people from diverse economic and geographic backgrounds, and women add perspective and value to Mn/DOT’s ability to determine, plan and meet the changing transportation needs of an increasingly diverse population. Staff photo

Mn/DOT launches its new diversity campaign this week, marking the start of its renewed commitment to integrate diversity into the workplace and standard business practices.

"Sharing the Journey – A diverse group pursuing a common vision," serves as the campaign’s theme because it states the overall goal of the department’s diversity effort.

"This campaign theme was selected because it basically says we’re all in this together," said Janet Bouyer, affirmative action officer, Office of Human Resources. "We all want to be able to work in an environment where we can feel appreciated and respected. We all want to deliver the best products and services we can to our customers, and we all want to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

"But what we need to work on is the ‘Sharing the Journey’ part. We have to achieve these goals together," Bouyer said.

Throughout the month of October, each district, the Metro Division and the Central Office will hold a diversity activity or event to start the campaign. Activities will differ. However, the goal of each event is to introduce the Mn/DOT’s diversity strategic plan, update employees about diversity initiatives, give employees the opportunity to view the diversity video and provide a forum for employees to ask questions and make suggestions concerning the department’s efforts.

"We’d like to see everyone participate in the different activities. This is an opportune time to gain a better understanding of what diversity really is and how it affects all employees and our work environment," said Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, Office of Communications and Public Relations and diversity event coordinator.

The campaign expresses Mn/DOT’s response to the 2000 Census data that show that Mn/DOT’s ratio of diverse employees is considerably lower than in Minnesota’s general population.

"The department hopes to increase the value of diversity in the workplace so it can better serve the diverse customers who use its products and services," Bouyer said.

The department plans to launch several diversity initiatives during the next months before the change of administration.

"We want to lay a strong foundation for diversity so when the next administration comes in, they’ll quickly recognize that it is a department priority," said Chief of Staff Margo LaBau. "We want them to build on what’s already been done, not start over."

Diversity events have been scheduled for Central Office on Thursday, Oct. 3, and for Detroit Lakes/District 4 on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Fergus Falls. Other districts plan to send out notices to their employees announcing their activity dates.

The diversity site is available at ihub/diversity.

By Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo


 Steady progress brings Hiawatha LRT to halfway completion mark

Workers laying light rail track

Workers install track for the Hiawatha light rail transit line near the old Minneapolis Armory in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Josh Collins

As cars, trucks and other vehicles zip through the busy Hiawatha Avenue/Lake Street intersection, workers remove temporary wood bracing, revealing the bridge that will carry Hiawatha light rail transit cars over Lake Street and through the Hiawatha corridor in Minneapolis.

At 38th Street and Hiawatha, patrons at the Cardinal Bar and Grill can watch progress on the line as roadbed and track installation moves south from downtown Minneapolis toward the rail line and the station platform under construction next to the establishment’s parking lot.

Further south, another bridge nears completion. The structure will carry the trains over Hwy 62, connecting stations at the Minneapolis Veterans Hospital and at the Bishop Whittle Building at Fort Snelling. A park-and-ride will be built at Fort Sneering to enable LRT riders to drive part way on their commutes.

In downtown Minneapolis, track installation is complete on six of the nine blocks the LRT line will use. The remainder will be done by December. Work begins Monday on 5th Street where it crosses the Nicollet Mall.

Construction at these sites and others during the summer of 2002 moved Minnesota’s first light rail project to a substantial milestone: the Hiawatha project now is more than 50 percent complete. Streamlining, combining the traditional construction design with the building process, has allowed the project’s timeline to be met.

"The project is on time and on budget," said Karen Louise Booth, acting communications manager, Hiawatha Project Office. Overall completion is at 55 percent as of Sept. 1.

LRT service will begin on the first section of the 11.6-mile line from the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis to Fort Snelling in the spring of 2004. Service to the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport and the Mall of America in Bloomington will follow in December 2004.

As of mid-September, embedded track is complete along six of the nine downtown Minneapolis blocks; by the end of this year, track will be completed on all nine. The ties and rail are already in place in portions of south Minneapolis.

Rail that was welded and stockpiled alongside the roadway since last fall now is being connected, section by section, along the 11.6-mile route.

Tunneling nears completion beneath the runways to extend the line to stations located in the main and charter terminals at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The first tunnel was completed in April; the second tunnel will be completed this fall.

The power for the light rail cars will come from electrical overhead lines. The rail cars are 94 feet long and can carry 187 seated and standing passengers. The light rail cars will be easily accessible, with the rail car’s floor at the same level as the platform entrance so that access for people who use wheelchairs or other aids is available at each doorway. Each rail car is equipped with luggage racks and bicycle storage hangers.

Boothe said not all the work on the Hiawatha happens along the line. At the project headquarters in the Ceresota Building off Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, managers, designers, engineers and support staff work purposefully to keep the project moving toward completion.

Other efforts to bring the LRT system on board include Metro Transit staff planning coordination of 46 bus routes with the rail system and conducting public meetings to address questions and concerns about the system, Boothe said.

"Thoughout the fall and winter, our attention is keenly focused on getting the LRT system operable as Metro Transit heightens its focus on the operations side of things," she said.

By Josh Collins and Craig Wilkins


 Combined Charities drive provides one-stop method for community investment

Combined charities logo

The State Employees Combined Charities Campaign runs Sept. 30 through Oct.11.

One dollar doesn’t seem to go very far these days, but sometimes a dollar invested in the State Employees Combined Charities Campaign can do a lot.

For example, every dollar donated to the campaign can help fund a food bank, a college education, a drug recovery program, medical research, the arts, health care or housing.

That’s the message of this year’s two-week campaign, which begins Sept. 30 and runs through Oct.11. Last year, Mn/DOT employees raised about $63,700 from a relatively small percentage of employees. This year, Mn/DOT’s 2002 campaign coordinator hopes to raise much more.

"If every state employee gave a dollar a paycheck, we’d raise about $1.5 million," said Ron Bisek, Mn/DOT’s 2002 campaign coordinator, Human Resources. "That’s only a can of pop every other week. That’s all it takes."

Campaign materials will be circulated soon with information and donation forms. Employees can also donate—or learn more—at Mn/DOT’s Web site, the state’s Combined Charities Web site or by calling 651/297-5675.

Donations are not limited to the member associations of the charity drive. Bisek said, "Employees can also designate a contribution to any recognized charity organization, even those that don’t participate in the Combined Charities drive."

For further information, contact your local coordinator or watch for posters and events in your work area.

Employees can also find a growing list of office and district coordinators in the current Employeeline.


 New study outlines plans to improve intermodal transportation movement in Winona

 Aerial view of intermodal facilities

An aerial view shows the Port of Winona and related modal connections, including rail and truck routes used to bring grain and other commodities for shipment on the Mississippi River.

Mn/DOT recently completed an intermodal study in the city of Winona. The Office of Freight, Railroads and Waterways, District 6, the city of Winona and the Edwards and Kelcey consulting firm collaborated to address rail, highway and waterway transportation issues.

"It's significant because it looks at the modes in a comprehensive manner and from a long-term perspective," said Judy Bodway, director of Economic Development for the city and port authority of Winona. According to Bodway, this is the most comprehensive transportation study Winona has conducted.

"Probably the biggest surprise is some of the recommendations that address the heavy rail traffic and switching operations we have. Now we have some new ideas on how to address these issues," Bodway said.

Thirty trains run through the city each day and there are numerous switching operations in the middle of the city. The Canadian Pacific and Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern railroads expect that number of trains to more than double in the next 20 years. The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative could bring an additional 12 high-speed passenger trains running between the Twin Cities and Chicago through Winona daily.

Currently Winona has 17 railroad crossings at roads and highways. Plans call for three of these crossings to be separated by bridges or underpasses. The study recommends that railroad switching operations be transferred away from the center of the city.

Growing congestion and delays, particular where transportation modes intersect, have hampered Winona’s future economic development, said Dale Maul, District 6 planner.

Maul says Winona is typical of the growing regional trade centers in his district. Without additional access controls and intersection improvements on Hwy 61 and Hwy 43, significant congestion may reduce travel speeds by as much as 75 percent.

According to Maul, this in turn would negatively impact the port authority’s plan to grow.

"The modes are interdependent and must work well together to provide a coordinated transportation system," he said.

Study recommendations include investment strategies for rail, highway and port enhancements estimated at $34.5 million. The Winona City Council accepted the report's recommended investment strategies and had already begun access and other improvements at the intersection of Hwy 14 and Hwy 61. The work represents one of the first steps the city is taking to facilitate traffic flow and improve access to the harbor and downtown Winona.

"Now we have a more comprehensive approach to transportation planning," says Bodway. "This will enhance the quality of life for Winona residents as well as those who pass through our city."

For more information, see http://www.dot.state.mn.us/ofrw/winonastudy.html.

By Brian Jergenson and Sue Stein


 Duluth Airport joins the state’s new Adopt-An-Airport program

Adopt An Airport logo

The Duluth Airport, Minnesota’s second largest airport, is the second airport in Minnesota to join the Adopt-An-Airport program.

The Duluth Airport, Minnesota’s second largest airport, became the second in Minnesota to join the Adopt-An-Airport program. The Cook Airport was the first airport to enroll and begin volunteer participation in the program.

Adopt-An-Airport is a volunteer program open to civic clubs, chambers of commerce, business and professional organizations, community groups and individuals. The groups work with airport management to decide how to best help support, maintain or beautify the airport.

"The Adopt-An-Airport program is great for the community and the airport," said Ray Rought, director of the Office of Aeronautics, at the Commemorative Air Force display at the Duluth Airport on Aug. 31. "The airport is the front door to the community and Duluth is on the leading edge of high-tech aviation."

The first project at the Duluth Airport will include planting shrubs and perennial plants to enhance the airport's entrance. Participants from the four registered volunteer groups—Abby Travel Inc., Helping Hands of Youth, Commemorative Air Force and Lake Superior College Flight Students—will begin work this fall.

The partnership benefits the airport, the city and the volunteers. Volunteers learn about their local airport and its influence on the community. Airports get the benefit of volunteer help to work on improvement projects. The combined effort of the volunteers and the airport management and staff help to enhance the understanding and value of the airport throughout the community.

"We think this is a great opportunity for our students to volunteer their time and expertise to help the airport grow and thrive. It is also a great way to educate our youth about aviation and aviation careers," said Julias Salinas, director of the Lake Superior College aviation program.

For more information, contact Janese Thatcher-Buzzell, Office of Aeronautics at 651/297-7652.

By Sue Stein


 Star Tribune praises Tinklenberg for his clarity, courage

Group of men sitting around table

Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg and Tim Worke, director of Government Relations (at right) listen with Wes Gjovik, district engineer at Bemidji (left) and Miles Ruland, heavy equipment mechanic (standing) as Duane Hill, district bridge engineer, tells a story about living (and fishing) in the North Woods. Employees at the Bemidji District headquarters turned a thank-you visit by Tinklenberg Sept. 25 into a thank-you for him for his advocacy of transportation. Tinklenberg received farewell gifts including a black and red "Paul Bunyan" style shirt, wild rice and maple syrup from district employees. Photo by Trish Ritchie

Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg’s recent announcement that he will leave Mn/DOT on Oct. 4 sparked a positive editorial in the Sept. 22 Star Tribune, which praised him for telling Minnesotans "not necessarily what they wanted to hear but what they needed to hear. His frequent explanations helped lift the interwoven issues of roads, transit, housing and development to the top of the state's agenda."

Noting "his clarity and courage on these matters," the editorial added that Tinklenberg "deserves the gratitude of Minnesotans. The preponderance of research and professional opinion nationwide bolster his views."

Click here to read more of the Star Tribune editorial. To read other transportation-related news stories, visit Mn/DOT’s online news clipping site.