May 13, 2009
Newsline Home Newsline Archives Print Newsline Submit News Feedback About Newsline iHub Home Web site

Table of Contents


Print Newsline
SELECT ALL or Click checkboxes below to select articles you wish to print.
Use your browser's Refresh Button to deselect all.

Governor signs transportation funding bill, agency to receive $3.8 billion for biennium

By Chris Joyce

Early approval of this bill means that our construction plans can remain on schedule, and we have a very large construction program with the money coming in from the federal stimulus dollars and from last year’s trunk highway bonding authority.

~ Scott Peterson, Government Affairs director

While the Legislature tries to come to agreement on a number of significant bills—including those affecting the budgets of several state agencies—the outcome at least for transportation funding is known.

On May 7, the governor signed legislation providing $4.3 billion over the next biennium for transportation, which includes money for Mn/DOT as well as for the Department of Public Safety and the Metropolitan Council.

Mn/DOT’s appropriation is $3.8 billion for the biennium, which represents a reduction of about $155 million from what the department was expecting to receive before the most recent budget forecast. This translates to a $120 million reduction in Mn/DOT’s road construction budget and a $35 million reduction from its operating budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, which begins July 1.

“At a time when the state as a whole is looking at a $4.6 billion deficit during the next two years, some reduction in our operating budget was pretty much to be expected,” said Scott Peterson, Government Affairs director.

“However, early approval of this bill means that our construction plans can remain on schedule, and we have a very large construction program with the money coming in from the federal stimulus dollars and from last year’s trunk highway bonding authority,” he said.

Among other policy and budget provisions, the legislation also:

  • Provides $1.2 billion for state road construction
  • Provides $1 million for commuter and passenger rail activities, such as planning, analysis, design, preliminary engineering and land acquisition
  • Authorizes $40 million in bonding for interchanges and for matching federal funds, half in the Twin Cities area and half in Greater Minnesota
  • Allows Mn/DOT to carry-forward any unspent funds from this biennium into the next
  • Modifies the phase-in of the motor vehicle sales tax revenue during the next two years by reducing the amount that goes to highways by $19 million and giving it to transit (approximately $13 million to the Metropolitan Council and $6 million for Greater Minnesota)
  • Establishes an endowment account for the Stillwater Lift Bridge for the routine maintenance and operation of the bridge once it is converted to a bike/pedestrian facility
  • Requires there be a business liaison for all construction projects that impact businesses longer than 30 days in order to help mitigate the effect of construction projects
  • Directs Mn/DOT to conduct a design-build pilot program for local transportation projects

Mn/DOT, local governments ready to share right of way data as part of District 4 pilot project

By Darlene Gorrill

Many times in his career, his search for maps, deeds and other right of way records required that Brian Bausman drive – sometimes for hours – to county offices. But a pilot project in District 4 promises to save time and gas, as well as open the door for data-sharing among state and local agencies on a broader scale.

The recently completed pilot succeeded in two important ways by establishing collaborations with local government and by finding technology solutions that will allow Mn/DOT and local agencies to easily share right of way data.

“The idea is to have a one-stop shop for land information,” said Bausman, District 4 right of way supervisor.

The idea is to have a one-stop shop for land information.

~ Brian Bausman, District 4 right of way supervisor

With the technology in place and District 4 and three counties online, the idea is becoming much closer to a reality. So much closer that District 4 will make use of the online application this summer when a roundabout project near Moorhead that involves Clay County begins.

It is a two-way street when it comes to benefits: cities and counties also are in a position to realize savings and gain from access to Mn/DOT data.

“We were interested in participating for a couple of reasons – one of the biggest was that if we can help Mn/DOT with what they do, it really helps everyone,” said Mark Sloan, GIS coordinator in Clay County.

Instead of finding documents for Mn/DOT staff, for example, county staff can spend time on other tasks.

Mn/DOT survey crews also gather high-quality survey information that interests Clay County, Sloan added.

“With a greater flow of information back and forth between counties and Mn/DOT, that’s an example of better government,” he said.

Based on its progress in District 4, Mn/DOT in early 2009 expanded the pilot into District 3, with an eye to eventual statewide launch. Research Services has helped the Office of Land Management to secure funding support for the work from the department, the Minnesota Local Road Research Board and the Federal Highway Administration.

The project traces its roots back to a 2002 effort to develop a statewide parcel map inventory, said Rick Morey, assistant director of surveying and mapping in the Office of Land Management.

That first step involved gathering and sorting data that the department used to determine right of way. After completing the inventory, the office turned its attention to the data-sharing effort.

A technical advisory panel with diverse representation helped define the desired data. For Mn/DOT, the list included deeds, survey records, plats, ownership information and zoning boundaries. For local government, the list included aerial photos, historical field notes and digital right of way information.

The project also involved conversations with the 12 counties, four cities and the White Earth Indian Reservation that constitute District 4.  

We are at ground level with this. There are many types of data in agencies that when shared will help make people’s jobs easier and more efficient.

~ Rick Morey, assistant director of surveying and mapping in the Office of Land Management

District 4 and District 3 may lead the way in use of the right of way data-sharing application, but its potential could extend far and wide.

“We are at ground level with this,” said Morey. “There are many types of data in agencies that when shared will help make people’s jobs easier and more efficient.”

Bausman and District 4 right of way staff are eager to make use of the online application. “It’s really a system that can evolve over time,” says Bausman. “It’s something that we think is only going to grow.”

Research Services sponsored a Research and Innovations Presentation Series session on the project in February 2009. Visit for the presentation video and information.


Linda Taylor named new research services director

Linda Taylor

Linda Taylor begins as the department's director of research services on May 21. Photo by David Gonzalez

Linda Taylor is set to become the new director of research services, effective May 21. She succeeds Sue Lodahl, who recently accepted the position of assistant state maintenance engineer.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota, Taylor began working for Mn/DOT in 1982 as a graduate engineer.

Taylor has since worked in a variety of positions at Mn/DOT, including serving most recently as the maintenance training and research engineer in the Office of Maintenance.

Taylor’s other experience includes working as the signal operations and modeling engineer for both Metro District and the Central Office traffic offices; holding various positions in Freeway Operations, including as research and development engineer; serving as a bridge automation engineer and as the computer aided drafting and design system manager.

“Throughout her career, Linda has shown a strong interest in innovation and research and has been very effective at program management,” said Nick Thompson, director of the Office of Policy Analysis, Research and Innovation. “Her leadership will help develop our partnerships with the research community, enable breakthrough innovations from research and help the department achieve our mission.”

Taylor is an active member of Center for Transportation Studies/Maintenance Partnership, the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program Steering Committee, the Operational Research Assistance Program Committee and the Northland Advanced Transportation System Research Laboratory Technical Advisory Committee.  

Taylor’s office is located in Central Office, 1st floor north. She can be reached at 651-366-3765.


Southwest Minnesota holds Toward Zero Deaths workshop

By Nick Carpenter

Dave Trooien speaking at TZD conference

District 8 engineer Dave Trooien welcomed participants to the second annual Southwest Toward Zero Deaths workshop on April 30 in Redwood Falls. Photo by Diane Beck

Nearly 60 people attended the second annual Southwest Toward Zero Deaths workshop on April 30 in Redwood Falls.

The event featured a variety of presentations, including a powerful speech from Carleen Wiersma, whose son Andy died in a 2008 crash.

Wiersma expressed her gratitude toward emergency services personnel for their roles after the crash, and said while it is hard to lose a child, knowing that there are people working to prevent crashes and save lives is comforting.

Commissioner Tom Sorel, District 8 engineer Dave Trooien and Lt. Brian West of the Minnesota State Patrol were among those who welcomed participants to the event.

Later in the day, Cheri Marti, director of the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, presented data on serious injury and traffic death statistics for the southwest Minnesota area. Bernie Arseneau, director of Mn/DOT’s Policy, Safety and Strategic Initiatives Division, spoke about the goals of TZD in Minnesota.

“The workshop was a great opportunity to provide information on traffic safety issues and enhance community traffic safety programs,” said Beverly Herfindahl, District 8 TZD coordinator. “In particular, three breakout session topics allowed participants to gain information and commit to advancing the concept of Toward Zero Deaths.”

Coming up in Rochester

The Southeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths workshop will be held Thursday, May 21, from 8:30 a.m - 3 p.m., at the Ramada Hotel in Rochester.

For more information about the state’s Toward Zero Deaths program, visit


On the job: Michael Ritchie provides technical, investigative expertise in handling hazardous materials incidents

By Nick Carpenter

Michael Ritchie in car

Michael Ritchie is one of four hazardous materials specialists in the Office of Freight & Commercial Vehicle Operations. Their top priority is responding to hazmat transportation incidents, which include the release or potential release of hazmat cargo at a crash or during the loading or unloading of a truck. Photo by Nick Carpenter

Michael Ritchie’s path to becoming a hazardous materials specialist began in 1984, when he was hired by the department to serve as a motor transportation representative.

At that time, there were only two hazmat specialist positions within the agency and both were occupied. The positions were relatively new, having been created in 1980 due to federal hazmat regulations adopted by the state of Minnesota. Although the regulations were in place before 1980, not many of the states were enforcing them, according to Ritchie.

In 1988, Ritchie applied for and became the agency’s third hazmat specialist. For 21 years he has held his position, making him the most senior member of the current crew of hazmat specialists, which also includes Jim Fox, Kevin Kampa and Randy Kudzia.

What are your daily duties?

Most people think that hazmat specialists deal mainly with emergency response. In reality, only part of our duties pertain to emergency response issues.

Hazmat specialists conduct compliance reviews, hazmat cargo inspections and provide hazmat and motor carrier safety training.

I also spend a lot of time answering hazmat questions from the industry and interested citizens, as well as coordinating our activities with the USDOT and various state agencies.

What you do when responding to an emergency?

We are dispatched by the Minnesota Duty Officer, who works for the Department of Public Safety and is the single point for requesting state agency assistance and reporting hazmat spills. We are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When we arrive at an incident, we have two primary responsibilities.

The first is to be part of the incident command system and provide support and technical expertise to the incident commander. The incident commander is usually the local fire chief or emergency manager.

We work closely with other state agencies at an incident scene and provide knowledge and experience in hazmat packaging, including the design of cargo tanks, procedures for product transfer and up-righting rolled-over vehicles. The goal is to get the incident handled safely, prevent or reduce chemical releases and get the highway reopened.

Second, we figure out why the incident happened by performing an investigation to determine if the incident was caused or made more serious by violations of the hazardous material or motor carrier safety regulations.

If hazmat shipper or carrier violations are discovered, we document them and refer the responsible shipper or carrier for regulatory review. The review may direct the responsible party to take immediate corrective action to prevent further violations or unsafe activities.

What type of incidents do you respond to?

We have responded to a variety of incidents over the years.

Our top priority is hazmat transportation incidents, which include the release or potential release of hazmat cargo at a crash or during the loading or unloading of a truck.  

Transloading mishaps occur when hazardous material leaks during the transfer of cargo from a truck to rail car or vice versa.

We also deal with fires or chemical releases that occur at a facility near a highway, illegal dumping of hazmat on the right of way or any other incident that affects a road or highway.

In cases where someone has illegally dumped hazardous material on Mn/DOT right of way, we attempt to identify the guilty party. Every once in awhile, we get lucky and are able to trace the material back to the responsible party.

Who cleans up the mess?

It is the duty of the responsible party to prevent discharges, clean up all spilled material and dispose of the waste properly.

However, department policy allows maintenance workers to contain and remove vehicle fluids, but not hazmat cargo, to get a roadway open.

Describe an interesting incident you or your team responded to.

My partner, Jim Fox, responded to a BLEVE on Hwy 7 in Olivia last year just before Thanksgiving. A BLEVE, which is very rare, is an incident that involves a boiling-liquid-expanding-vapor explosion.

The incident involved a driver who turned his propane cargo tanker over causing it to rupture and explode. That’s extremely unusual because propane cargo tanks are generally tough.

I responded to a gasoline tanker rollover on Hwy 75 in Lac Qui Parle County in February. The trucker was driving in white out conditions, lost sight of the road and ran into the ditch.

I checked with District 8 staff and the State Patrol and was told travel in the area was unsafe. Local responders who made it to the scene reported the tanker was not leaking so we decided to leave the truck where it was, as it was unsafe for recovery crews to operate.

I then contacted the trucking company and we scheduled the recovery effort for the next day. The following morning I supervised the off-loading of the cargo tank and, thankfully, no gasoline was spilled.

Do you or a co-worker have an interesting job to share with readers? Click here to send us your ideas, and we’ll contact you for more information.

Recent employee profiles:


Scott Bradley wins landscape architecture award for public service

By Bob Filipczak

Scott Bradley writing on white board

Scott Bradley, landscape architecture chief in the Office of Technical Support, is also a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. In April, he was recognized by his professional peers for his public service and volunteer activities. Photo by David Larson

On April 24, Scott Bradley, landscape architecture chief in the Office of Technical Support, received the public service award from the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The award celebrates the accomplishments of landscape architects who either work in the public sector or who volunteer their time for public service.

In Bradley’s case, the award was for both.

Community outreach

Bradley was cited for community outreach and his work in developing the Mn/DOT Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program, an ongoing initiative he formalized in 1991. His team has helped complete more than 350 roadway landscape projects by collaborating with community groups around the state. Mn/DOT’s staff provides technical, design, training and implementation assistance, and the department reimburses communities for the cost of approved materials that can be purchased near wholesale cost. The community partners install and maintain the improvements.

“It typically stretches a highway landscape dollar three or four times as far,” said Bradley, “and you get a lot more ownership and pride invested in your partners, who also add on the bonus of additional cost avoidance for Mn/DOT each year as they maintain the investments.”

Champion of context sensitive design

Community group planting tree

In 1996, Scott Bradley (in the hole) helped with tree-planting at the Stevens Square Neighborhood community landscaping project along Interstate 94 in South Minneapolis. Photo by Eileen Jordahl

Bradley was also cited for championing context sensitive solutions both in Mn/DOT and throughout the nation. His work at Mn/DOT, as the chair of the Transportation Research Board’s CSS Task Force and as a volunteer all have helped advance the principles and professional practices of context sensitive design. These practices balance safety, mobility, historic preservation and environmental sustainability along with community values in transportation.

In addition, Bradley was recognized for leadership in leveraging higher industry standards and in developing widely used tools like the Mn/DOT plant selection expert system.

PlantSelector is a Web-based program that helps landscaping professionals and the public choose appropriate plants for roadside functions, conditions and constraints specific to areas across the state. While this program provides a positive and measurable return on investment for Mn/DOT, it still surprises a lot of folks from around the state and country, because they would not expect that a DOT would develop a tool like this, Bradley said.


Minnesota recognized as Bicycle Friendly State

Bicyclists in front of state capitol

Minnesota was recognized by the League of American Bicyclists for its initiative and dedication in making the state more bicycle friendly. Photo by David Gonzalez

The League of American Bicyclists recently honored Minnesota as one of two states to win the League’s inaugural bronze awards for Bicycle Friendly States.

“Minnesota stands out among the rest of the nation for its initiative and dedication to become more bicycle friendly,” said Andy Clarke, the League’s executive director. “We applaud Minnesota and our other BFS winners for their willingness to invest over the long-term in creating a better, more livable environment for their citizens.”

Four states received awards and two states received an honorable mention. Washington and Wisconsin won silver awards, Arizona and Minnesota received bronze awards, and Delaware and Maryland received honorable mentions. There were no states that qualified for the gold or platinum awards.

The League promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America’s 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates.

The BFS program launched in 2008 as part of the Bicycle Friendly America program expansion and links the League’s work with federal level and community advocacy throughout the nation by recognizing states that actively support bicycling.

To learn more about the League’s Bicycle Friendly States program, visit

For more information about bicycling in Minnesota and about the “Share the Road” bicycle safety education program, go to


FIRST driver Dave Steffer receives thanks for assistance

I am writing to thank you for helping my wife this morning (April 29). She had run out of fuel in her vehicle on the east bound lane of 694 just before the 169 exit. I was on my way with fuel to her but still at least 15 minutes away when one of your First Program trucks (operated by Dave Steffer) came and gave her some gas to get off of the freeway.                                              

Thank you very much. I am fully aware that there are no safe places when you are broken down on the side of a road like that and that is why I think this program is brilliant and essential.

Please relay our thanks to everyone involved! You guys did a great job, and I think this program is equally great!

Thank you!

Craig Matson

SELECT ALL or Click checkboxes above to select articles you wish to print.
Use your browser's Refresh Button to deselect all.