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January 5, 2005    No. 143
  This week's top stories
 Mn/DOT Web site gets a face lift
 State Employee Appreciation Week: A message from Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau
 Pawlenty-Molnau propose more than $100 million in transportation capital improvement projects
 Mn/DOT ends KBEM contract, traffic reporting
 District 3 concrete paving project on Hwy 10 earns national recognition
 Hals accepts SEEDS Program director mobility position

 Mn/DOT Web site gets a face lift

Web graphic
Mn/DOT's external Web site sports a new look to simplify navigation for users and align it more with the look of the state Web site.

Notice something a little different about the Mn/DOT Web site? Mn/DOT’s home page recently was rolled in for surgery: a little nip here, some structural tucks there, and the beginnings of a fresh, new site emerged early Tuesday morning.

The Office of Communications updated the home page and several of the pages that link directly from it to simplify navigation for users and align it more with the look of the state Web site. This is the first significant makeover to the site in almost five years.

Mordechai Dorfman, Office of Communications, created the new look based on the State of Minnesota Northstar site and added his own touches.

“The new pages are the beginnings of larger plans to revamp the entire site,” said Jed Becher, Mn/DOT Web manager. “Mn/DOT is exploring various options, including ways to use technology to make the site easier to maintain and update or moving to the state Web site.

“We are waiting to see if any direction for state agency Web sites comes out of the Drive to Excellence,” Becher said. “In the meantime, we will be taking a phased approach to the makeover. Any work we do during this phase will lay groundwork for future changes.”

Move towards topic-based sites

As new sites are developed or old sites updated, Office of Communications staff will work with offices to facilitate cross-functional teams to produce and maintain sites built around specific topics, rather than the traditional site built around office organization charts.

For example, the Office of Technical Support is developing a site for design-related issues—a one-stop tool kit for designers, contractors and consultants involved with Mn/DOT projects. The site will include links to information from many different areas in the organization.

Becher said many state DOTs have already moved in this direction, including Wisconsin (http://www.dot.state.wi.us/), Washington (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/) and Michigan (http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/).

“This will be a big change in the way we think about Mn/DOT’s Web sites,” said Lucy Kender, director, Office of Communications. “We are used to thinking in terms of office sites but that‘s not the way our customers think. Reworking our site so that it is organized across office lines will better meet our customer’s needs.”

The Office of Communications will provide Web developers with new templates that match the look of the new home page.  

“We expect the process of changing existing pages to the new template to take six months to a year,” said Becher. “Web staff should not feel that they need to rush out and apply the new look to old page—we’d rather take our time and accomplish both the physical face lift and the move to a topic-based organization in one well-thought-out step.”

Several cross-functional groups have already started to meet. As new topic-based sites go online, they will be featured in Mn/DOT Newsline.

In addition, the Office of Communications will send out regular GroupWise notes to Web developers and others who want to stay up-to-date on the redesign process. If you would like to be added to this list or have questions or comments about the Web redesign, e-mail Becher at Webteam@dot.state.mn.us .

By Kay Korsgaard


 State Employee Appreciation Week: A message from Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau

Next week (Jan.10-14) brings the observance of State Employee Recognition Week as proclaimed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. I’d like to start a little early and commend all Mn/DOT employees for their efforts to serve the state and its citizens.

I am not the only one who has noticed. For example, Twin Cities TV station KARE-11 includes Mn/DOT snowplow operators in its salute to public servants and the work we do. We receive hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls each year that laud the services we provide (see below).

Most focus on the high profile things we do: road construction, snowplowing and other highway maintenance work.

They are important, but they’re not the whole story. Our story includes hundreds of Mn/DOT people whose jobs enable a large organization like ours to function smoothly. Their dedication and steady competence may make them less visible but no less valuable.

Many of their jobs are on the “paper” end of the process. They include the people who prepare payrolls, pay our contractors and suppliers, support computing operations and administer employee benefit programs.

Their ranks also include technicians who monitor quality at concrete and asphalt batch plants, researchers who find new ways to improve pavement quality and life, and trainers who transfer Mn/DOT’s collective expertise to department employees as well as those from other government and private sector agencies.

When transportation-related crashes and other incidents occur, staff from the department’s transportation management centers notify other agencies and the public immediately to minimize danger and disruption. They can also call out Mn/DOT’s hazardous materials experts to lessen danger to people and the environment from chemical spills and similar incidents.

Mn/DOT’s office and administrative assistants manage the day-to-day business and occasional crises that help us all stay focused and do our jobs more effectively. Their knowledge, patience and organizational skills are invaluable.

Without inventory staff and mechanics, our snowplow trucks would soon be out of service. Without knowledgeable permit technicians, truckers couldn’t operate as safely or efficiently or fully meet legal requirements. When staff from modal offices lend their expertise, transit system operators, airport managers and others can provide better service to their customers.

Mn/DOT employees’ jobs, roles and responsibilities cross at many junctions. Each connection can become an opportunity to try something new, do something better or find another way to get the job done.

I’ve seen a lot of those connections result in creative new ways to improve our products and services. I am encouraged and motivated by them.

Congratulations to you all for our accomplishments in 2004. I encourage all Mn/DOT people to commend their co-workers, during recognition week and during the new year, for jobs well done.

To: Minnesota Department of Transportation:

Thank you!

We just returned from a trip to Nashville, Tennessee to visit our son and his family. On Dec. 22 we drove as far as Bloomington, Illinois.

We heard about the ice that had paralyzed Interstate 24 across Kentucky and Tennessee so on Dec. 23 we elected to drive through Indianapolis and south on Interstate 65. By late afternoon we had driven as far as Seymour, Indiana where we tried to find a motel because Interstate 65 was bad. We could not get to the motel; reportedly they had 30 inches of snow. There didn’t seem to be much snow removal equipment. We backtracked about 40 miles North and stayed overnight.

On Dec. 24, probably 18 hours after the snow stopped, Interstate 65 was occasionally a single lane and none of the shoulders were plowed. Much of the road was snow packed. The plows we saw were traveling perhaps 20 mph and I only saw one with a wing plow. We got safely to Nashville late Christmas eve.

I believe we in Minnesota often do not appreciate the efforts and effectiveness of our snow removal crews. The plows used on the Interstates in Minnesota are designed for high speed and the crews know how to operate them. We may not like the salt for its side effects, but the roads are drivable even as the snow is falling. Our recent trip was a reminder of how well Minnesota copes with winter.

We want to say thank you to Mn/DOT and to the skilled snow removal personnel that keep our roads in great condition all winter.

–Paul and Maxine Chase, Crosby, Minnesota


 Pawlenty-Molnau propose more than $100 million in transportation capital improvement projects

More than $100 million in transportation-related projects were part of the overall $816 million state capital improvements bonding proposal Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Lt. Gov./Commissioner Carol Molnau announced Jan. 3.

The transportation projects contained in the proposal include $37.5 million for Northstar Commuter Rail, $28 million for the Local Bridge Replacement Program and $16.62 million for the Mankato Headquarters Building.

The governor's proposal will be considered by the Legislature, which opened the 2005 session on Jan. 4. For more information about the Pawlenty-Molnau capital improvements proposal, click on http://ihub/information/2005/pawlentybonding.html.

Metro District’s Korzilius will serve as legislative assistant

Joe Korzilius, Metro District materials engineer, will serve as the legislative assistant with the Office of Government Affairs during the current term of the Minnesota Legislature. His appointment begins Jan. 10.

During his temporary assignment, Korzilius will assist office staff analyze legislation, research issues, write weekly legislative updates and provide information to the Legislature.

Korzilius joined Mn/DOT in 1984.

His office will be located in Room 466 of the Transportation Building; telephone number will be 651/284-3227.




 Mn/DOT ends KBEM contract, traffic reporting

Mn/DOT will end its 15-year relationship with KBEM, a public radio station owned by the Minneapolis school district, on March 15. The end of the agreement means KBEM will no longer broadcast traffic reports from the Regional Transportation Management Center in Roseville.

“It is really unfortunate that this is necessary,” said Bernie Arseneau, state traffic engineer and director of the Office of Traffic, Security and Operations. “But we have reached a point where we can’t justify supporting KBEM with Trunk Highway dollars given the other needs we have to meet.”

Arseneau said the $400,000 his office will save annually by ending the contract will go back into its budget, which will allow him to avoid layoffs and elimination of other services.

“We need to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” Arseneau said. “KBEM has provided an excellent service to Metro area drivers over the years. But, there are now many sources for traffic information that didn’t exist when we started the service. We can shift that funding elsewhere and provide a better value for the public.”

In the time that Mn/DOT has worked with KBEM, sources for traffic information in the Twin Cities metro area have grown dramatically, he added. Commercial radio and television stations have added reliable traffic reports to their news programs. Many of these programs rely largely on information supplied by the RTMC, which monitors freeways throughout the Metro area with approximately 300 surveillance cameras.

Mn/DOT also offers road and traffic information over the phone at 5-1-1, Arseneau said, and at the Web site www.511mn.org. That site has links to Mn/DOT's real-time traffic cameras and a Twin Cities metro area congestion map. Mn/DOT has added travel-time information to more than 30 electronic message signs over metro-area highways. Motorists also can subscribe to XM Satellite Radio service for a fee to receive traffic reports similar to those on KBEM.

By Kevin Gutknecht       


 District 3 concrete paving project on Hwy 10 earns national recognition

Repaving project
The Hwy 10 unbonded concrete overlay work between Staples and Motley in Todd County earned national recognition from the American Concrete Paving Association. Photo courtesy of District 3

Mn/DOT received national recognition from the American Concrete Paving Association when its overlay project on Hwy 10 between Staples and Motley earned finalist honors at the association’s annual meeting.

Finalists for the Excellence in Concrete Awards are judged on the basis of overall pavement smoothness, quality control measures, project complexity and innovativeness.

During the summer of 2003, crews from District 3 used an unbonded concrete overlay process to repair a six-mile section of the highway, maintain its structural integrity and extend the life of the pavement surface.

The crews patched the existing concrete surface, applied a thin layer of asphalt and then added a seven-inch layer of concrete to the pavement surface. In addition, the workers replaced culverts and constructed turn lanes and shoulders.

Jaime Hukriede served as project engineer.

“Winning a national award is a tremendous honor for us at Mn/DOT,” said Bob Busch, District 3 transportation engineer. “It’s gratifying to have your peers and industry leaders recognize innovative methods and superior leadership. I’m very proud of the district’s construction staff for a job well done.”

By Cathy Clark, District 3 public affairs coordinator


 Hals accepts Seeds Program director mobility position

Denise Hals, a previous graduate of Mn/DOT’s Seeds Program, has accepted a mobility assignment as the Seeds program director in the Office of Workforce Development. Her new position was effective Dec. 15 and will extend to May 15, 2005.

In her new position, Hals will direct the career track program that recruits minority or economically disadvantaged students for professional experience within Mn/DOT while they complete their education. Hals temporarily is filling in for Emma Corrie, who accepted a mobility assignment as the Workforce Development Program supervisor.

Hals is a graduate in graphic art and ad design from Brown Institute and was one of the first Seeds student workers hired in July 1994. Upon her graduation in 1995, she was hired as a permanent employee.

She has worked for the offices of Environmental Services and Technical Support, and is currently at the Regional Transportation Management Center as a traveler information officer.

Hals plans as director include meeting with all Seeds students individually to get to know them, their goals and needs. She also plans on reactivating the Seeds Advisory Committee, which is a committee that helps plan, assist and support the Seeds Program director; she was actively involved in this committee as a member.

Hals is excited about seeing the students excel and helping them become successful. She wants to be a good role model for the Seeds students and pass on experience and knowledge that she has gained during the past decade. When it comes to working with the students, she said she is most excited about “seeing them grow and blossom into a professional.”

By Lisa Yang