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  moving minnesota through employee communication April 16, 2003    No. 99
  This week's top stories
 Minnesota's river season begins
 Injured worker to speak during upcoming Workers Memorial Day observance
 Moving day arrives for Transportation Management Center
 Quick action by Rochesterís Brad Horn saves trapped motorist
 Mild winter doesnít bring pothole relief
 St. Cloud Conference Center opens

 Minnesota's river season begins

Man, woman in tugboat

Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau, aboard the towboat Itasca, gets some background from Lee Nelson, Upper River Services LLC. Photo by Sue Stein

Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau, Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture Perry Aasness and St. Paul Port Authority President Ken Johnson officially opened the Twin Cities navigation season by sounding the towboat Itasca's whistle on the Mississippi River in St. Paul on April 4.

"As a farmer, I know how important waterway transportation is in bringing our Minnesota products to market," said Molnau.

Minnesota ships about 33 percent of its agricultural crops to export markets; more than 60 percent of that goes by waterway to the Gulf of Mexico for export to world markets.

In 2002, Minnesota exported 9.5 million tons of grain via the river waterway system. Annually, Minnesota ships and receives between 16 million and 17 million tons of freight by river. According to Dick Lambert, Ports and Waterways director, if that amount were shipped by truck it would add about 660,000 trucks to the roadways during the shipping season or more than 2,500 trucks daily.

Other exports include potash, asphalt, scrap iron and petroleum. The river system brings sand and gravel, fertilizer, salt, cement, coal and caustic soda to Minnesota.

Tugboat on river

The towboat Itasca worked hard last year carrying its share of the 16-17 million tons of freight that Minnesota businesses imported and exported. Photo by Tom Collins, St. Paul Port Authority

"Waterway traffic is a safe, economical and environmentally friendly way to ship bulk products and reduce congestion on our roadways," said Molnau. She noted that waterway traffic depends on rail and truck transportation to get products to market.

Each barge carries 1,500 to 1,650 tons of freightó15 times more freight than a rail car and 60 times more freight than a truck. One gallon of fuel can move one ton of freight 514 miles on the river.

Lee Nelson, Upper River Services LLC, invited the government leaders to mark the occasion, which formally begins the Twin Cities navigation season.

Minnesota has five ports on the Mississippi and Minnesota riversóMinneapolis, St. Paul, Savage, Red Wing and Winona.

For more information on waterway navigation, check out the Web site at: tp://www.dot.state.mn.us/boat.html. To read the news release of this event, check out Mn/DOTís News and Views Web page, which contains links to other recent news releases.

By Sue Stein


 Injured worker to speak during upcoming Workers Memorial Day observance

Damaged striping truck

The striping support truck in which Brian Bruckhoff and Cliff Vaske were injured rests on Hwy 15 after being struck by a semi-trailer truck in 1990. Photo by the State Highway Patrol, Mankato Office

It came, quite literally, out of the blue, on a bright summer day on Aug. 13, 1990. But around about 2 p.m. a semi-trailer truck crashed into the supply vehicle for a Mankato/District 7 striping operation on Hwy 15 north of New Ulm. Injured in that crash were transportation generalist Brian Bruckhoff and senior transportation generalist Cliff Vaske.

Although Vaske had only slight injuries and returned to work the next day, Bruckhoff suffered serious injuries to his head and shoulder. He underwent several surgeries plus months of rehabilitative therapy before returning to work in traffic, right of way and design. After the crash, he passed the technicianís test and now serves as a squad leader in detail design.

The 1990 crash left Bruckhoff with a weak left shoulder and arm along with an intense commitment to improving work zone safety.

Bruckhoff will recount these experiences at the observance of Workers Memorial Day in Mankato on Apr. 28. He will share speaking duties with Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau and others.

"I am one of the lucky ones who is still around," he said. "The main thing I plan to say is that we need to watch out for each other; we canít watch out for everything. We need to help each other and to increase the publicís awareness about work zones to increase our safetyóand theirs."

By Craig Wilkins


 Moving day arrives for Transportation Management Center

The long anticipated move from the Traffic Management Center, perched on the south end of downtown Minneapolis, to the new Regional Transportation Management Center next to the Waters Edge building in Roseville began Friday, Apr. 11. Since the move started at 9 a.m., control room staff was already operating from the new facility. A steady caravan of moving vans and workers were busy throughout the day delivering equipment and boxes. On Monday, Apr. 14, about 40 TMC employees reported for duty at the new location.

"The move went very smoothly," said Nick Thompson, operations manager. "Itís fantastic that we were able to be up and running so quickly."

During the following weeks, additional employees will move into offices in the RTMC, including Central Office employees assigned to RTMC along with the rest of the former Freeway Operations staff from Waters Edge. Metro Districtís Maintenance Dispatch and the Minnesota State Patrol Dispatch staff will move in sometime in May.

The Regional Transportation Management Center staff will coordinate Mn/DOTís traffic management efforts in the Twin Cities metro area. Staff in the state-of-the-art central control room will monitor traffic incidents using nearly 230 closed circuit televisions mounted along 210 miles of Twin Citiesí freeways.

Motorists receive much of this information through traffic reports on radio and television, Web site, telephone service and 60 electronic message boards located throughout the freeway system. Staff will also continue to provide traffic information to local radio and television traffic reporters.

The RTMC will also monitor and control the ramp meter system; provide motorist assistance through the Highway Helper program; and participate in Intelligent Transportation Systems initiatives and other research.

Mail will continue as usual with daily deliveries. New phone numbers will soon be available in GroupWise. Employees will still receive phone calls via their old phone numbers for the next several weeks. The reception desk phone number, however, is now (651) 634-5300. Information about tours of the new facility will be available soon.

For more information about happenings in Metro, visit the Metro online newsletter at: Metro Division: http://ihub.metro.dot.state.mn.us/newsletter/ (current edition)

By Kent Barnard


 Quick action by Rochesterís Brad Horn saves trapped motorist


Brad Horn, transportation specialist, Rochester/District 6 Construction Office. Photo by Craig Wilkins

A motorist whose car left the road flipped and starting burning has Rochester/District 6ís Brad Horn to thank for extricating him from a perilous situation.

Horn, a transportation specialist in Construction, was applying salt to Hwy 14 near Lewiston early in the pre-dawn hours of Apr. 4 when he saw the car overturned in the ditch, with flames coming from the engine compartment.

Horn grabbed his fire extinguisher and raced to the vehicle, not knowing if anyone was still inside. As he put out the flames, he heard someone banging on the window. Even though he couldnít see anyone in the darkness, Horn smashed the passengerís side window and freed the driver, who escaped with just a few scratches.

The District 6 Rochester/Owatonna News covered the incident and provided this assessment: "Although Horn doesnít consider himself a hero, the story highlights again the importance that Mn/DOT snowplow crews play at providing not only safe driving to motorists, but also being there to potentially save lives while theyíre not plowing snow."

For more on this story, visit Connections, the Rochester/District 6 online newsletter at: http://ihub.d6.dot.state.mn.us/newsletter/

By Craig Wilkins


 Mild winter doesnít bring pothole relief

 patching crew looking at traffic

The same heavy traffic that contributes to pothole formation also requires that patching crews keep an eye out for potential safety problems. Photo by David Gonzalez

Potholes have begun to show up again on roads throughout Minnesota, heralding the changeover from winter to spring and back again...and back to spring again. Minnesotaís unusually mild winter, however, has neither increased nor decreased the number of potholes, according to Jim Michael, Mn/DOT Metro District maintenance superintendent, saying that the number of potholes is about average this year.

Michael noted that there were fewer freeze-thaw cycles in the Twin Cities Metro area this year, which may have offset other factors that increase the occurrence of potholes, he said. Generally, the more freeze-thaw cycles in a season, the more potholes can develop.

Potholes form, he said, when moisture seeps into cracks in the pavement. As temperatures drop, water freezes and expands and the pavement cracks grow. As the temperature rises, the water thaws and contracts, leaving larger cracks behind.

Demand increasing on aging roadways

Two other factors play a growing role in creating potholes: age plus cumulative stress from the weight of traffic using the road.

As roadways age, cracks begin to form. The older the road, the more cracks it usually has. Minnesotaís state and interstate highway system is quite old for modern-day highways: about 75 percent of Minnesotaís state highway system was originally built more than 30 years ago. About 33 percent has been around for more than 50 years.

 Dewayne Jones patching

The steam rising from this winter pothole being patched by Metro District maintenance supervisor Dewayne Jones will give way soon enough for summer's heat. Photo by David Gonzalez

The weight of vehicles on a road's surface also causes cracks to occur. The more vehicles that travel on a given road, the more cracks are likely to form there. The number of vehicle miles traveled, on Minnesota's roads has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. Population increases account for some of this additional mileage: Minnesotaís population increased by 21 percent during the same period.

"As the system ages and demand on highways increases," Michaels said, "it makes our roadways more susceptible to porthole formation."

Preventive maintenance

Last year, Mn/DOT spent $6 million to patch roads and repair potholes on the stateís 12,000 miles of state highways. But sometimes prevention is the key; a Michigan study found that preventive maintenance could save $8 in future costs for every dollar spent on preventive work.

The first step in Mn/DOTís prevention program is assessment. Using lasers and cameras to evaluate the quality of pavement around the state, Mn/DOTís engineers and technical staff have identified about 36 percent of the stateís highway miles as eligible for preventive maintenance in 2003.

Repair crews can use about eight to ten different procedures to prevent potholes from forming. This is good news for drivers: fewer motorists should need to repair a torn muffler or replace blown tires.

By Patricia Lund


 St. Cloud Conference Center opens

St Cloud HQ

The new St. Cloud headquarters for Baxter/District 3B will play host to many government agenciesí meetings using the new St. Cloud Conference Center. Photo by Vickie Paul

Mn/DOT staff and employees will have a new place to meet in the center of the state beginning Thursday, May 1. Thatís when Baxter/District 3 will officially open their new St. Cloud Conference Center in the Mn/DOT St. Cloud building at 3725 Ė12th Street North.

The new conference center, which is easily accessible from several major highways, will host meetings, conferences, seminars, and training for government agencies (federal/state/county/city) conducting government business.

The center has five rooms, including three conference-style rooms with modular walls for expansion plus two committee rooms. It will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reservations are required two weeks in advance.

For more information or to reserve a room, please contact Tina Warwick at 320/255-2959; toll-free 1-800-657-3961 or via e-mail at: stcloud.conference@dot.state.mn.us.

By Vickie Paul