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  moving minnesota through employee communication March 19, 2003    No. 97
  This week's top stories
 Pawlenty-Molnau transportation package to accelerate $1 billion-plus in construction projects
 Snowstorm causes flurry of crashes involving state snowplows
 Mn/DOT receives three awards for emergency management
 McFarlin returns as assistant to commissioner
 Community support propels start of Wadena Countyís new transit service
 Congressman presents check for Hwy 23 improvements
 Quick response limits fuel spill from overturned tanker
 Steps taken to protect employees, infrastructure from potential security threats

 Pawlenty-Molnau transportation package to accelerate $1 billion-plus in construction projects

2 men, woman at lectern

Following Friday morning’s news conference at the state capitol, Pawlenty and Molnau flew separately around the state to garner support for their plan. Photo by David Gonzalez

Construction of more than one billion dollars’ worth of critical highway and bridge projects could begin as much as nine years earlier than originally planned under a transportation financing package announced by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau March 14. The Legislature will now consider the proposal.

"The governor and I promised that we would address Minnesota’s extensive backlog of highway and bridge projects," Molnau said. "Our financing proposal provides the resource to move many of these projects forward, providing motorists improvements in highway congestion, roadway safety and statewide mobility in some corridors as soon as possible."

The $1.0 to $1.2 billion package calls for a mix of innovative financing options—including bonding and leveraging federal highway funds—to accelerate several construction projects into the 2004-09 construction seasons. Specific projects that may be funded under the plan have not yet been named.

The financing package includes up to $550 million from new state trunk highway bonds, which will be used to leverage the accelerated use of $550 million in future federal highway funds. Additionally, the package invests $50 million in metro area transit improvements (such as enhanced shoulder lanes, park-and-ride lots and ramp meter bypasses) and $5 million in greater Minnesota transit service capital improvements.

While the governor met with news media in Rochester, Mankato and Alexandria, the lieutenant governor addressed reporters in Duluth and Moorhead. Photo by Maureen Talarico

"This is an aggressive approach to meeting our core responsibilities—roadway safety, preservation and project construction," Molnau said.

"Given the current state budget situation, we need to be more creative in our approach to transportation financing," she added. "While bonding and accelerating federal funds is, admittedly, a short-term solution, Gov. Pawlenty and I continue to be committed to finding a more-permanent, long-term solution to transportation financing—without raising taxes."

The bond debt service will be repaid by reallocating the $42 million per year that the department recently identified as savings in administration overhead and other areas.

For more details about the plan, visit Mn/DOT’s transportation financing page. Click here to read some of the news coverage of the Pawlenty-Molnau plan.


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 Snowstorm causes flurry of crashes involving state snowplows

 snowplow

Nick Prudoehl, transportation generalist, District 5, St. Charles truck station, received minor injuries after his tandem truck was rear-ended by a semi tractor-trailer on westbound I-90 in eastern Olmsted County. Photo by Roger Wiskow, sub-area supervisor, St. Charles truck station, District 6

The snowstorm that hit Minnesota on March 8-9 dropped several inches of snow, delayed travel and contributed to several crashes involving Mn/DOT snowplows. The most serious incident occurred on March 8 when a plow sanding an icy patch on westbound I-90 near the Dover exit was struck by a semi-trailer truck.

The plow operator, Nick Prodoehl, District 6 St. Charles truck station, and the truck driver suffered only minor injuries. Both were treated and released from the hospital. The collision drove the plow 300feet after impact until it hit a cement ditch block, flipped on its side and slid another 100 feet.

In the Twin Cities metro area, there were at least seven incidents where snowplows and motoristsí vehicles collided on the snowy highway system. None of the incidents resulted in serious injury to motorists or plow operators.

Another incident also occurred in Rochester/District 6, bringing the reported number of snowplow related crashes to nine over two days.

While the level of injuries was low compared with the number crashes, said Mary Meinert, work zone safety communications coordinator, Office of Communications, the potential for serious injuries or fatalities remains. She added that this reinforces the need for motorists to use extreme caution around snowplows.

By Craig Wilkins


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 Mn/DOT receives three awards for emergency management

 Jerry & Bob Vasek

Jerry Rosendahl, Director of Emergency Management, presented the Outstanding State Employee Awardto Bob Vasek, Mn/DOT Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator. Photo courtesy of the Department of Public Safety

Mn/DOT received Emergency Management Awards of Excellence at the Governorís Emergency Management Conference on March 5. The awards are given to individuals and organizations that exemplify the purpose of emergency management: to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

Outstanding State Agency

Mn/DOT was selected as the Outstanding State Agency for its "efforts that provide not only safer transportation routes, but a better place for all Minnesotans." Marthand Nookala, Operations, Safety and Technology Division director, accepted the award on behalf of Mn/DOT.

Outstanding Partnership Award

Bob Prudhomme, Office of Electronic Communications, represented Mn/DOT on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Transmitter Project Team which also included Todd Krause, National Weather Service, and Terri Smith, Division of Emergency Management.

These three agencies have worked together to enhance and expand the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather transmitter network in Minnesota. Their work has included identifying needs, setting priorities, coordinating with other program funds, working with many agencies and local units of government and staying within the budget.

Outstanding State Employee

Bob Vasek, Mn/DOT Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator, was named Outstanding State Employee for leading Mn/DOT's efforts in responding to the needs of local government during times of disaster. The most recent example happened during the floods of 2002, when Mn/DOT contributed resources quickly due to Vasekís efforts.

Vasek was also recognized for his leadership in heightening employee awareness of their role during a disaster/emergency and for understanding the emergency management program and how Mn/DOT can contribute to it.

"This yearís recipients went that 'extra mile' and exhibited outstanding efforts to provide support and assistance to victims, fellow responders, and the citizens of Minnesota," said Jerry Rosendahl, the stateís Emergency Management director.

By Sonia Pitt


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 McFarlin returns as assistant to commissioner

Bob McFarlin

Bob McFarlin, a former chief of staff and communications director with Mn/DOT, was appointed as an assistant to the commissioner for transportation and public affairs. In his new position, McFarlin will report to Lt.Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau and lead Mn/DOTís policy initiatives to further the Pawlenty/Molnau administrationís goals for Minnesotans to travel safer, smarter and more efficiently. His appointment began March 3.

In addition to his leadership on policy issues McFarlin will also lead the Offices of Government Relations and Communications.

For nearly a decade during the 1990s, McFarlin served as Mn/DOTís director of public affairs and chief of staff under former Commissioner Jim Denn.

McFarlin holds a bachelorís degree in business administration and a masterís degree in speech communication from the University of Minnesota. He also holds accreditation as a public relations professional.


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 Community support propels start of Wadena Countyís new transit service

 Wadena bus drawing

Friendly Rider buses such as the one drawn above will begin serving customers in Wadena County this spring.

Backers of Wadena Countyís new Friendly Rider transit system fully expect it to be rider-friendlyóand then some. The service will start in April to provide greater mobility for many of the countyís residents.

The system will start operation in April with three 15-passenger, lift-equipped buses. Service on Sundays will help more county residents to attend worship services and community events. Residents of Wadena and places such as Menagah, Verndale and Lost River will find it easier to obtain medical care, shop for groceries and other necessities and to participate more fully in community life.

Grants from Mn/DOT and the county paid for new buses and for operations, according to Paul Sailer, county social services director. Cash donations from individuals, government, businesses and community groups helped Wadena County to raise the needed "local match" to qualify for state transit funding. One individual, retired farmer Walter Goedel, donated $10,000 to help get the service under way

Paul Sailer, county social services director, said widespread community support persuaded the countyís board of commissioners to authorize the new transit service. Without mobility, many peopleóincluding elders and people with disabilitiesócan become increasingly dependent, often leaving the community or becoming isolated, he said.

"The basic purpose of transit is to preserve or improve a communityís quality of life," added John Tocho, director, Mn/DOTís Transit Program Section. "The need to get out and move about is basic whether thatís an elderly person, a person with a disability, a child needing a ride to an after-school activity or a family with two jobs and one vehicle."

Goedel, 79, said his support for the services stems from his knowing that eventually he will be unable to drive but still wish to retain a measure of independence and mobility.

"It might sound selfish," he said, "but Iím nearly 80 and I thought if anything was going to get moving we needed to start someplace. Even if I moved into town Iíd still need to get to church and things and things like that."

Donna Allan, Mn/DOTís director of transit, said in addition to funding support, Mn/DOT provides technical expertise for everything from vehicle selection and purchasing to scheduling and route operation. When the new system begins operation, 67 of the stateís 87 counties will offer public rural transit service.

"Wadena Countyís initiating a transit service will improve the daily lives of individuals and benefit community institutions and life," said Allan. "Mobility is a major contributor to a healthy, vibrant community."


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 Congressman presents check for Hwy 23 improvements

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, District 6-Minnesota, presented the Hwy 23 task force and Mn/DOT with a $1 million check. Photo by Sandy East

The money arrived on March 14 to widen a portion of Hwy 23 in southwestern Minnesota this spring, hand-delivered personally by a member of Congress. U.S. Representative Mark Kennedy, District 6-Minnesota, presented the Highway 23 task force and Mn/DOT with a $1 million check at a ceremony celebrating the public/private partnership that developed the project.

On hand to accept the check was Bob Dols, Highway 23 Task Force Chair. Others in attendance were Paynesville and Spicer mayors Jeff Thompson and Bill Taylor respectively, as well as Ken Warner, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Hwy 23 funding comes from the Omnibus Federal Funding Bill recently approved by Congress. The bill included funding for numerous transportation projects in Minnesota. A portion of the bill designated $9.8 million for Greater Minnesota highway projects, including the widening of Hwy 23 to four lanes between Willmar and Spicer.

This shows strong federal support for the Highway 23 corridor and other greater Minnesota transportation efforts," said Dave Trooien, district engineer, Willmar/District 1.

Mn/DOT staff worked for several years with local governments, citizensí groups and business owners to gain support for the project, which affects communities such as Spicer and New London. Hwy 23 is important to a much larger region as well, with support coming from other communities on Hwy 23 such as Marshall. Long-range forecasts indicate heavy population growth and increased commuter traffic.

Highway 23 has strong support from the communities all along the corridor," Kennedy said. "I can't emphasize how important the coalition is. There's a lot of people pushing for the plan."

Paul Jurek, Mn/DOT construction engineer, said that crews will begin work on Hwy 23 the first week of April if weather permits.

For more information, visit:

Willmar/District 8 news release: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d8/newsrels/03/021903hwy23projectawarded.html

Newsline story, March 5: http://ihub.newsline/archive/03/mar/5.html

By Sandy East


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 Quick response limits fuel spill from overturned tanker

tanker inspection

Roseville firefighters check leakage from an overturned fuel tanker that crashed on Hwy 36 near the Metro Districtís Waters Edge building on March 8. Photo by Mike Ritchie

A fast, well-coordinated response by Mn/DOT and other agencies on March 8 turned a potential major fuel spill into a routine recovery operation. Thatís when a tanker carrying 8,500 gallons of diesel fuel and gasohol rolled over on Hwy 36 in Roseville near the Metro Districtís Waters Edge Building.

The tanker crashed near a storm sewer drain and spilled about 500 gallons of fuel into the drainage pond next to Waters Edge. State Patrol closed the highway from 1:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Once the fuel leakage was blocked and the highway reopened, hazardous materials crew pumped the diesel fuel and alcohol to another tanker before righting the overturned tanker.

A Metro Division Maryland Avenue truck station crew then plowed a path for the vacuum trucker ordered by the PCA and provided traffic control until the highway was reopened. Hazardous materials crew then drilled four holes in the tanker, pumped the diesel fuel and gasohol to another tanker and then turned the tanker upright.

Agencies partnering to contain and clean up the spill included the State Patrol, Metroís Dispatch Center. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Roseville Fire Department, and Metro District-Maryland Avenue maintenance crews. Each agency played its part smoothly.

tanker inspection

Fuel from this overturned tanker leaked into the drainage pond near Waters Edge as well as into the sewer. Photo by Mike Ritchie

  • Metro Dispatch and the State Patrol alerted the PCA, who traced the spill.

  • The Roseville Fire Department managed the incident, stopped the initial leakage and provided fire protection.

  • Maryland Avenue crews plowed snow to clear a path for a vacuum trucker ordered by the PCA.

  • The hazardous materials crew transferred the fuel from the tanker and turned it upright again.

  • Also on hand was Mike Ritchie, the hazardous materials specialist on call from Mn/DOTís Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations.

Ritchie said the fuel recovery and transfer met all guidelines for ensuring safety and minimizing environmental damage. As examples, he said the leakproof manhole covers on top of the tanker did hold, thus minimizing leakage, and response crews made sure that the aluminum-bodied tanker was completely empty before moving it.

"If we had tried to right it full of fuel, it could have ripped open like a Coke can," Ritchie said, adding: "The cooperative effort and our training really paid off. Mn/DOT got there early with the right people who had the right skills and equipment to get it done."

"Mn/DOT got there early with the right people who had the right skills and equipment to get it done."
Ė Mike Ritchie

By Craig Wilkins

Note: To read more about this and other District stories such as the Hwy 23 widening project in Willmar/District 8, check out the district newsletters listed below:

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 Steps taken to protect employees, infrastructure from potential security threats

In anticipation of the war in Iraq, Mn/DOT has put steps in place to respond to the increased domestic threat level and has assigned staff to the stateís Emergency Operations Center. For details please read the letter from Lt. Gov. Molnau to all Mn/DOT employees.


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