Sept. 16, 2009
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I-35W bridge replacement named one of America’s 10 best transportation projects


Completed in September 2008, the new Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis boasts the world’s largest anti-icing system and uses smart bridge technology, including 323 sensors that will generate a record of how the bridge manages the stresses of traffic. Photo by David Gonzalez

On Sept. 8, the Interstate 35W bridge replacement project was selected as one the nation’s 10 best transportation projects for 2009 by the American Automobile Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The top 10 projects will compete for America’s Transportation Awards’ Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award, which will be decided by popular vote. Online voting is underway at the competition’s official Web site through Oct. 23:

The projects were selected by a panel of judges who evaluated 50 highway projects from 33 states in three categories: “On Time,” “On Budget” and “Innovative Management.” Twenty-two winning projects were selected during four regional competitions.  

Minnesota’s I-35W bridge was completed in September 2008, three months ahead of schedule, at a cost of $234 million. It was built using the design-build process, which allowed it to be completed in 339 days.

“More than 140,000 motorists crossed the I-35W span daily, so it was imperative for us to act quickly and replace the bridge,” said Khani Sahebjam, deputy commissioner. “The timely completion of the new bridge never would have been possible without the remarkable efforts of our partners.”

The new bridge also has the world’s largest anti-icing system and uses smart bridge technology, including 323 sensors that will generate a record of how the bridge manages the stresses of traffic. Other project notables include:

  • 100-year life span
  • 10 lanes of traffic, five in each direction—two lanes wider than the former bridge
  • 13-foot wide right shoulders and 14-foot wide left shoulders, the previous bridge had no shoulders
  • Light rail transit-ready to help accommodate future transportation needs
  • Designed to be aesthetically pleasing and fit in with the surrounding environment

The winners of the Grand Prize and the People's Choice Award will be announced Oct. 25 at the AASHTO Annual Meeting.


E-magination JAM rocks on, two more days to jam

By Kay Korsgaard


"I JAMMED" buttons are showing up on lapels and shirts all over Mn/DOT. All participants will receive a button in appreciation for their time and contribution.

By the end of day three of E-magination JAM, nearly 200 new ideas have been submitted to the online forum, which was created to give employees a quick and easy way to present their ideas for ways that Mn/DOT can work towards our strategic directions.

“It’s exciting to watch,” said Susan Hall, project manager. “The ideas started rolling in right after the commissioner’s kick-off webcast on Monday and are showing no sign of slowing down.”

Employees can contribute in several ways. In addition to presenting new ideas, participants can vote and comment on their co-workers’ ideas.

“The voting and comment feature is one of the most exciting features of the jam,” says Hall. “We’ve seen several ideas gain momentum and improve through the comments and of others. Even if you don’t have an idea, I encourage all employees to login and participate by voting and commenting.”

The ideas generated by the jam will be reviewed by Khani Sahebjam, deputy commissioner, as well as division directors. Ideas that show the most potential to further Mn/DOT’s strategic directions—Safety, Mobility, Innovation, Leadership and Transparency—will be presented to Commissioner Tom Sorel for possible destination innovation funding.

There’s still plenty of time to jam. Employees can log on to and jam until midnight, Sept. 18.


Mn/DOT renews exchange program with Russian province

By Bob Filipczak


From left, Stepan Tyapugin, Mariy El Road Administration; Alexandr Kartashov, Medvedevo Road Repair and Construction Enterprise; Don Theisen, Washington County public works director; Julie Skallman, State Aid Division director; Stephen Kern, FHWA International Programs Office; and Igor Starygin, Director of RADOR visit a bituminous plant in Russia. Photo by Mike Tardy

Julie Skallman, State Aid Division director, returned from Russia on Aug. 16 with a newly signed memorandum of understanding that extends Mn/DOT’s exchange program with the province of Mariy El for five more years.

Mn/DOT’s relationship with Mariy El began in 2004 as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Global Technology Exchange Program, which was designed to match state transportation departments with similar geographical regions in the world to exchange transportation knowledge.

Skallman went to Russia for seven days along with Don Theisen, Washington County public works director, and Mike Tardy, assistant district engineer in Duluth.

Mariy El just like Minnesota
Because this area of Russia is similar in climate and geography to Minnesota, it has many of the same road issues. Mairy El’s roads are primarily two-lane highways and gravel roads.

“We rode the train from Moscow to Mariy El, and you would have sworn we were in northern Minnesota,” said Skallman.

In the program’s first five years, Russian transportation engineers have improved their capabilities in ways both simple and complex. On the complex side, Skallman said she was impressed after visiting a concrete plant where they were using modern technology and techniques to create bridge beams. On the simpler side, the Mariy El team was eager to show how it was improving safety by painting stripes on all roads, both center lines and edge lines.

The Russian engineers had also purchased a RoadTec milling machine that they had seen two years ago when visiting Minnesota.

“We’re actually seeing technology that we had a chance to show them being adopted in Russia,” said Skallman. “It was a very rewarding visit.”

The exchange of ideas and techniques is punctuated every two years by alternating visits by teams from Mn/DOT and Mariy El. The Russians will be visiting Minnesota again in two years, probably to study snow and ice removal efforts during the winter.

The first time they visited Minnesota, one of the Russian engineers who had been in the army during the cold war, viewed Americans with some animosity, according to Skallman.

"I got off the plane, I met you, and I can’t believe how much people are the same all over the world. You are wonderful," he told Skallman.

When the Minnesota team arrived in Russia last August, the same Russian engineer greeted the delegation wearing an official Mn/DOT safety vest and hat.


Health and Wellness: flu shots available beginning Sept. 22

Employees who want to receive the seasonal flu vaccine can do so by visiting one of two Central Office clinics:

Tuesday, Sept. 22
Conference Room 702
8 a.m.-noon.

Thursday, Oct. 22
Conference Room 702
10 a.m.-noon

In addition to flu shots, FluMist nasal spray will be available as an option for employees whose health status meets criteria for prescribed use.

There is no cost for the flu shot or nasal spray to employees who present their Minnesota Advantage Health Plan member ID card. Those who are not covered under the Minnesota Advantage Health Plan can purchase a flu shot injection for $24 or FluMist for $32.

Employees who work in greater Minnesota can view a statewide list of flu-shot clinics by visiting


Sept. 18 marks inaugural Run at Work Day event

By Qin Tang


Employees interested in substituting break time for exercise can do so by participating in the inaugural Minnesota State Capitol Run at Work Day 5K and Half 5K event on Sept. 18.

The opening ceremony will begin at 11:15 a.m. on the State Capitol lawn, with Commissioner Tom Sorel presiding over the start of the race at 11:30 a.m.

Various health and running organizations will be on hand to speak with employees interested in learning more about running and services offered to foster a healthy lifestyle.

Employees who wish to participate in the event can fill out the registration form at or visit the registration booth by 11 a.m. on Sept. 18. Registration is not necessary for employees who plan to walk the course.

Although participation is free, participants and employees interested in going to the event are encouraged to bring at least one non-perishable food item to the race. Proceeds will go to Second Harvest Food Bank in St. Paul.

The event was organized by the Run at Work Day Planning Committee and sponsored by the Hiway Federal Credit Union to coincide with National Run at Work Day, which was created to encourage people to devote some of their break time at work each day to running. 

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