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  moving minnesota through employee communication April 2, 2003    No. 98
  This week's top stories
 Lt. Gov. Molnau seeks legislative support for financing package
 Kick-off set for the largest one-year construction program
 Mankato District takes work zone safety message home to employees
 Cooperative efforts move Hwy 12 bypass closer to groundbreaking
 New on the Web: Links to layoff resources, updates, timeline
 Speech! Speech! Text from recent commissioner speaking engagements available on iHUB

 Lt. Gov. Molnau seeks legislative support for financing package

Building faster  

Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau promoted the need for increased transportation funding by seeking legislative support for the administration’s financing package at a House Transportation Finance Committee hearing April 2.

Molnau described how the package would accelerate $1-1.2 billion worth of long-delayed construction projects by as much as nine years. She outlined the plan’s innovative financing approach that calls for issuing $550 million of new state trunk highway bonds which will leverage a like amount of future federal funds.

"I believe the plan will be successful in its goals to provide congestion relief, add system capacity and enhance economic and personal mobility in Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area," said Molnau. "I also want to stress that to make this plan a success the Minnesota Department of Transportation will refocus on its core responsibilities of roadway safety, preservation and project construction."

Molnau told the committee that the financing package was not the "end-all" to transportation financing and a longer-term plan is needed.

"This plan will get us through these tough economic times," she said. "In a deficit year, this is a good plan. However, we will continue to look at new, creative ways to fund long-term transportation needs. We are looking at ways for those who use the road to pay for the road."

 Mn/DOT pie chart

Redirecting $42 million in Mn/DOT spending from lesser-priority initiatives to highway construction projects will pay the debt service on $550 million in new trunk highway bonds.

When questioned about the $42 million Mn/DOT plans to use to pay the debt service for the bonding in the plan, Molnau emphasized that the bulk of the redirected funds will come from administration and overhead expenses.

She further emphasized the areas that have gotten the most attention--rest areas, snow and ice removal and striping—will be evaluated to provide the most cost-effective service to citizens without compromising safety.

Molnau also has written a guest commentary about the financing package that has appeared in several Minnesota newspapers. Follow http://www.dot.state.mn.us/financing/ to read the commentary and get further background on the Pawlenty/Molnau Transportation Financing Package.

Next week, Molnau is scheduled to present the package at the Senate’s Transportation Policy and Budget Committee.

A copy of Lt. Gov. Molnau’s legislative presentation is available at: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/financing/documents/aprilpresentation.ppt

By Lucy Kender



 Kick-off set for the largest one-year construction program

 I-494 at 61

The I-494/Hwy 61 Wakota Bridge
replacement project, which crosses the Mississippi River, includes local
road improvements in St. Paul, South St. Paul, Newport, and St. Paul Park. Photo by David Gonzalez

Mn/DOT will again mobilize its resources to improve the state’s highway system as it officially begins the 2003 construction program on April 8. The department will start or carry over nearly 200 projects designed to relieve congestion, improve interregional corridors and enhance safety on the state’s 12,000-mile trunk highway system.

The 2003 program totals 199 projects—137 in Greater Minnesota and 62 in the Twin Cities metro area. Of that total, there are 79 projects carried over and 120 new ones.

Although muddy conditions caused by this year’s deep freeze and quick thaw may delay the start of a few projects, they are not expected to affect project completion dates.

New contract lettings this year represent a drop compared with 2002 because of the one-time funding the department received in 2000 with a mandate that the projects be completed by June 2003. Mn/DOT is on track to use the full allocation it received in 2000. Future project funding depends on action by the Legislature during its current session.

This year’s program includes rebuilding corridors such as Hwy 52 in Rochester and Hwy 23 between Willmar and New London, the new Main Avenue Bridge (Hwy 10) that will connect Moorhead and Fargo and the Piedmont Avenue (Hwy 53) reconstruction project in Duluth.

Brainerd/District 3 will continue expanding Hwy 371 to four lanes on the section between the new, four-lane Brainerd 371 bypass and Camp Ripley while Mankato/District 7 will continue its work on Hwy 60, expanding the highway from two to four lanes between Heron Lake and Wilder.

 I-35E bridge

Work continues for the second year on the I-35E Lexington Bridge across the Mississippi River in St. Paul. The project is scheduled for completion in fall, 2004. Photo by David Gonzalez

Bemidji/District 2 will undertake projects such as resurfacing Hwy 2 between Marcoux Corner and Erskine and a new bridge on Hwy 197 (Midway Drive) this season.

Continuing projects also include widening Hwy 23 between Cold Spring to Richmond in District 3 and rebuilding Hwy 14 to four lanes between Eagle Lake and Janesville.

Twin Cities metro area projects include expanding I-494 from four to six lanes between Hwy 5 to France Avenue and completion of the new Wakota Bridge that will carry I-494 over the Mississippi River between Newport and South St. Paul and eliminate a major traffic bottleneck. Work will also continue on the six-lane expansion of I-94/I-694 from the I-494 junction east to Hwy 252.

"The one-time funding allocated by the Legislature has boosted spending on transportation to record levels for now," said Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau. "But this one-time money expires on June 30; without additional financing, the construction program next year will be reduced by 40 to 50 percent."

Last month, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Molnau unveiled a transportation funding package that would reduce the backlog of critical highway projects. The plan would provide as much as $1.2 billion for ongoing highway construction during the next five to six years.

"The 2003 program represents significant progress in our mission to reduce congestion and improve safety and mobility across the state," said Bob Winter, District Operations Division director.

 groundbreaking ceremony

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the four-lane Piedmont Avenue project in Duluth brought out dignitaries such as (left to right) Duluth Mayor Gary Doty, Duluth/District 1 District Engineer Mike Robinson and Mn/DOT Deputy Commissioner Doug Differt. Photo by Maureen Talarico

"This month we will break ground on rebuilding Hwy 52 in Rochester. Using the design-build method for the ROC 52 project instead of the traditional design-bid-build method provides a good example of how Mn/DOT uses innovative ways to deliver projects faster and more efficiently," he said.

Using design-build to expand an 11-mile section of Hwy 52 from four to six lanes, he said, will enable Mn/DOT to cut five years from the standard time needed to complete such a project.

"That’s five years of improved travel time for drivers, five years of less disruption for businesses and residents and five years of improved safety," he said.

Winter also cited rebuilding Hwy 23 between Willmar and New London as a project that will add significant capacity to one of Minnesota’s interregional corridors. The project will expand 11 miles of the highway from two to four lanes.

Interregional corridors represent only two percent of all roadway miles in the state, he said, but account for about one-third of all vehicle miles traveled.

"It’s crucial that we improve these roads now, because traffic volumes have risen by 50 percent during the last 10 years and are expected to double by the year 2020," Winter said.

By Craig Wilkins


 Mankato District takes work zone safety message home to employees


A flagger signals to warn motorists they are approaching a highway work zone. Construction Office photo

Talking on his cell phone and leaning over the steering wheel to light a cigarette, the driver of a van failed to notice a Mn/DOT flagger holding a sign in the "Stop" position on a two-lane highway in Mankato/District 7.

The flagger jumped out of the van’s path and fell backward into a ditch. The flagger at the other end of the project alertly stopped traffic about to move into the work zone to prevent a head-on crash with the van.

The flaggers were wearing reflective vests and high-visibility hats and pants. The signs and amber flashing lights were in place. The crew, said Dale Plemmons, Mankato/District 7 safety administrator, had done everything by the book.

The problem, he said, was a distracted driver. This scenario, he said, is not uncommon. Near-misses such as this may occur several times each year.

In a note to district employees, Plemmons made the following plea: "Please be careful in work zones; distracted drivers are everywhere. We stand just inches away from passing traffic. Remind the drivers you know about work zones and how to limit their distractions while driving through work zones—encourage them to disconnect cell phones, turn down the radio and limit unnecessary conversations. Their safety and ours depends on attentive drivers."

The district is taking other steps to increase safety awareness as well.

Plemmons said the district will show the new video, "Mn/DOT Flagging Operations," produced by the Office of Communications, to its employees as part of its "toolbox" training program. (Copies of the video may be ordered from Leigh Kriewall, 651/296-6223, or by e-mail.)

Other district activities include a poster contest for children of district employees to illustrate the need for safety in work zones. The posters will be displayed, he said, to emphasize each family’s stake in the safety of all district employees.

The district’s efforts will receive support from Mn/DOT’s statewide work zone safety campaign and the observance of Workers Memorial Day in Mankato on April 28.

Plemmons said, however, that employees must start where they can—with co-workers, friends and family to stress the need for more attentive driving in the state’s highway work zones.

"We have to get our friends and families thinking about better safety out there between the cones and barrels," he said.

By Craig Wilkins

More projects require extra patience, care by motorists

This season’s 182 projects mean drivers will need to exercise their best judgment, care and patience when they encounter highway projects this year. To emphasize that need, Mn/DOT will begin its summer work zone safety campaign, "See orange. Slow down in work zones," during National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 6-12).

The campaign is part of a national campaign to reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities in all highway work zones, said Mary Meinert, work zone safety coordinator, Communications.


 Cooperative efforts move Hwy 12 bypass closer to groundbreaking

 Hwy 12 as it looks now

This aerial view of Long Lake shows the existing alignment of Hwy 12.

The long-planned reconstruction of Hwy 12 in Long Lake and Orono moved substantially closer to reality with approval of Mn/DOT’s construction plans by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

The Metro District plans to rebuild five miles of the highway in Hennepin County just west of Minneapolis starting in this summer. The project area has experienced extensive growth in population, commercial development and commuter travel.

Hwy 12’s current location prevents it from performing adequately as Long Lake’s main street or as a part of a regional corridor, said Gayle Gedstad, project engineer, Metro District.

The highway will be realigned along the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad right of way it currently parallels. The project will require moving about four miles of the existing track to build the new Hwy 12 alignment. Its design will be an access-controlled, "super two" style roadway. (A "super two" roadway has wider lanes and shoulders, better sight lines and includes safer opportunities for passing than a standard two-lane highway design.)

The new alignment will allow Long Lake to reclaim its downtown area along Hwy 12 by directing through traffic, especially large trucks, to the bypass. "Old Hwy 12" will become a county road serving local and downtown area traffic.

Bypassing downtown Long Lake will reduce traffic congestion substantially, Gedstad said. Without the bypass, traffic counts would eventually increase from 22,000 average daily traffic to 45,000 ADT.

The project’s first phase will extend from Wayzata Boulevard in Wayzata to Hennepin County Road 6 in Orono. Cost for the first stage of construction is about $40 million.

Completion of the project’s first phase is planned for fall 2006. The second phase, which includes new interchanges with Hwy 12 at Wayzata Boulevard and Hennepin County Road 6, will start in 2005 and be finished by fall 2006.

 Hwy 12 proposal

This computer simulation shows the future alignment of Hwy 12. The highway will be south of the existing alignment and parallel to the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad tracks.

Protecting the environment

Protecting water quality in the project area for Long Lake, Classen Lake and streams such as Long Lake Creek has been a crucial issue. Solutions have been reached by officials from the watershed district, the cities of Orono, Wayzata and Long Lake, the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency and Mn/DOT.

Erick Evenson, watershed district manager, said cooperative efforts by each agency involved in the project was instrumental to reach agreements on plans to protect water quality and other environmental concerns during construction and when the project is completed.

An arrangement by Mn/DOT and Orono, for example, enables Mn/DOT to replace about 13 acres of wetlands taken for the project with 24 acres of new wetlands that will be created in the city’s parks and other open spaces.

The project also required that Mn/DOT purchase all or parts of 142 parcels of property, including the Long Lake city hall and its fire station.

The project will also include drainage ponds, slopes covered with vegetation to absorb runoff and other methods to limit the amount of dissolved solids, phosphates and other pollutants entering lakes and streams.

Replacing wetlands in the immediate area is important, Evenson said, because it helps retain the project area’s environmental balance and its ability to support birds and other wildlife.

When completed, the rebuilt roadway will relieve congestion in the busy corridor and improve safety without creating detrimental effects to the area’s extensive water resources.

 Hwy 12 map

The proposed alignment of Hwy 12 will bypass downtown Long Lake and should reduce traffic congestion substantially.

Considering esthetics

Plans for rebuilding Hwy 12 also call for other environmental and esthetic considerations. Mn/DOT will move the historic truss-style bridge that carries the Luce Line Trail over existing Hwy 12 to a nearby location where it will span old Hwy 12. Wooden noise walls will provide a buffer between the new highway and St. George’s Cemetery in Long Lake. Retaining walls will be built in varying levels so that vegetation such as shrubs can be planted in front of them to soften their visual impact.

"This project has been envisioned for more than 40 years," Gedstad said. "We want to make sure we do it right."

By Craig Wilkins


 New on the Web: Links to layoff resources, updates, timeline

The Office of Human Resources has added layoff information to its Web site.

The Office of Human Resources has set up a new Web site to provide employees with general information about Mn/DOT's pending staff layoffs and links to additional resources.

What you’ll find on the site are:

  • Resources, such as links to the state employee assistance program, a layoff resource guide from the Department of Employee Relations, guidelines for managers and supervisors to improve employee communications, and unions’ Web sites

  • Updates on the layoff process

  • Calendar of significant dates of the layoff process

For more information about the site, click on http://ihub/layoffguide. Questions about individual situations should be directed to your supervisor or union representative.

Workforce transition sessions offered for managers, supervisors

Information sessions for managers and supervisors to handle workforce transitions will be offered in mid-April to most department locations via videoconference.

A state Employee Assistance Program representative will lead the sessions, which will be offered by videoconference April 14 (10:30-12:30) and April 17 (8:30-10:30) to all districts A and B sites and in Central Office. A third session will be offered April 15 (11:00-1:00) in Central Office Room G22.

Registration is necessary because of space limitations and so materials can be delivered to participants in advance. Click here for more information about registration and the topics to be covered.


 Speech! Speech! Text from recent commissioner speaking engagements available on iHUB

You may not have attended the recent Intelligent Transportation System Minnesota annual meeting or the James L. Oberstar Forum on Transportation Policy and Technology—both of which featured Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau as a speaker—but you can now read what she had to say on Mn/DOT’s iHUB site.

Click here to view a list of recent speeches the lieutenant governor and Deputy Commissioner Doug Differt gave or visit the Commissioner’s Web page, which provides links to additional information about topics of interest to Mn/DOT employees.