Dec. 7, 2011
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Hiring of more women, minorities and disadvantaged businesses on projects shows three-year improvement

By Mary McFarland


Work progresses on the Interstate 694/Hwy 10/Snelling Avenue project in Arden Hills. The project was awarded to Shafer Contracting Company due in part to its 17.1 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise participation goal. To further support minority- and women-owned contractor participation, several of the project’s subprojects were debundled from the main contract and awarded to smaller companies in an effort to increase DBE involvement. Photo by Abe Hassan

The number of minority and women workers, as well as disadvantaged businesses, employed on transportation construction projects has steadily increased during the past three years, according to figures released by the Office of Civil Rights.  

Statistics show that 3,200 workers were employed on federally funded state transportation construction projects during the peak period in August 2011. Of these, 272 workers were minorities (8.5 percent of the workforce), up from 168 (7.5 percent) in 2010 and 114 (6.1 percent) in 2009. In addition, there were 143 women (4.5 percent) hired in 2011, compared to 87 (3.9 percent) in 2010 and 62 (3.3 percent) in 2009.

“The commitment to address joblessness is a cornerstone of MnDOT’s civil rights program and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Workforce Collaborative,” said Mary Prescott, Office of Civil Rights director. “Minnesota is helping to level the playing field for women and minorities, and it is rewarding to see our efforts to develop a diverse workforce produce results.”     


Prescott said the department’s on-the-job training program, which establishes apprenticeships targeted to move women, minorities and disadvantaged persons into professional positions, as well as community programs that develop heavy equipment and construction-related training, have contributed to the increase in the number of women and minorities in transportation construction.

The 2011 DBE participation rate on construction projects is 7.6 percent, compared to 5.6 percent participation rate in 2010. Any state, county or city project receiving federal funds establishes a DBE goal. DBE specialists, in consultation with the Office of Construction and the project manager, evaluate each project’s location, size, work type and the availability of DBEs. These DBE project goals are included in the contract or proposal for the project.

“This year’s DBE participation is a result of the productive partnership between MnDOT and the DBE and Workforce Collaborative who are collectively evaluating the effectiveness of a revised DBE contract provision,” Prescott said. “We look forward to continued progress leading to sustainability in meeting DBE goals over the next several years.”

The Transportation Equity Network recently cited Minnesota as one of only four states that increased access to federal highway construction jobs for women and minorities. The report, The Road to Good Jobs: Making Training Work (October 2011), identified the state’s success in increasing the number of women and minorities in federal highway road construction training programs from 2008 to 2010. The other states were Hawaii, which led the way with 8.2 percent, and Minnesota, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, whose numbers were between 6 and 7 percent each.  

Prescott said she credits changes in OCR as well as the creation in 2008 of the Minnesota DBE and Workforce Collaborative for contributing to this success.

“MnDOT created the DBE and Workforce Collaborative to balance competing interests and improve diverse workforce participation on roadway projects, including establishing training programs that ensure workforce participation in the transportation industry reflects the demographics of Minnesota,” she said.

For more information about the Minnesota DBE and Workforce Collaborative, visit To view the Transportation Equity Network report, visit


District 4 employee eligible for vacation donation


Steven Baukol, District 4/Detroit Lakes Permits, was diagnosed with myeloma, a life-threatening cancer of the bone marrow. Photo courtesy of District 4

Steven Baukol, District 4/Detroit Lakes Permits, is now eligible for the state vacation donation program, which allows employees to donate up to 40 hours of vacation per fiscal year for approved recipients who have exhausted their sick and vacation leave due to illness.

Baukol, a 14-year MnDOT veteran, was diagnosed with myeloma, a life-threatening cancer of the bone marrow. He has used up his vacation and sick days undergoing surgery and treatments for his illness.

To donate vacation hours, go to the Employee Self Service website and click “Other Payroll” and then “Leave Donations.” The site also allows employees to view a list of all state employees eligible for the program and enroll as a recipient.

Related information:

Road to recovery: Vacation donation program eases the pain (Newsline, Nov. 10, 2010)—Read a viewpoint from one MnDOT recipient.


Third season of Commissionerís Reading Corner kicks off Jan. 4


The first Commissioner’s Reading Corner discussion of the 2012 season is set for Jan. 4, at 1:30 p.m., in the MnDOT Library at Central Office.

Eric Davis, enterprise risk management project manager, will lead a discussion of “The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal,” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The book is available in hard copy and on Kindle e-book readers in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner at the Library.

Employees also can participate via Adobe Connect and should log in as a guest no earlier than 1:15 p.m. All employees are encouraged to attend, even if they have not yet read the book, according to Qin Tang, MnDOT librarian.

For more information on the Commissioner’s Reading Corner, visit ihub/readingcorner. Employees with questions can contact Qin Tang at 651-366-3784.


Whatís new on the web?

The Office of Communication’s Web Team recently made some updates to MnDOT’s iHUB that employees should be aware of:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest Transportation Research Board reports and browse through proposed and in-progress research at ihub/research/TRB.html.
  • Learn more about right of way and land management by visiting Employees can find training opportunities, view annual reports on surveying and mapping trends, and print a phone directory of land management contacts statewide.
  • Find travel policies, timesheet reporting help and more at

On the job: Linda Aitken keeps MnDOTís tribal relations in forward motion

By Lisa Yang


Linda Aitken, tribal liaison, addresses the audience at the 2011 Tribes and Transportation Conference in October. Photo by David Gonzalez

Linda Aitken began her role as MnDOT’s tribal liaison when she joined the agency in June 2001. As one of the agency’s chief spokespersons, Aitken leads the agency effort in developing and maintaining relationships with all Minnesota Indian tribal governments, and works to foster a mutual understanding on issues affecting American Indian tribal communities.

Although her position is part of the Government Affairs Office located in St. Paul, Aitken primarily works at her home office in Walker; however, she often travels to meetings throughout the state.

How was the tribal liaison position created?

The idea for the tribal liaison position first came out of a specific project involving historic and cultural issues on a bridge replacement in Bemidji. The historic and cultural issues involved working with multiple tribes on a property that is historically significant to the Ojibwe and Dakota people. 

The National Historic Preservation Act requires all federal agencies to consult with Indian tribes for undertakings that may affect properties of traditional religious and cultural significance on or off tribal lands. 

MnDOT and Federal Highway Administration’s Minnesota Division posed the idea to the tribes about establishing a tribal liaison position within MnDOT. The responses from the tribes were overwhelming in their support to establish the position. The tribes were consulted and gave their input on the position description and the kind of person who should be hired.

Initially, the idea for the position was environmentally focused, but the work soon expanded to other areas the tribes considered equally important to their governments and people, such as employment, right of way, planning, safety and partnerships.

What types of issues do you deal with?

The issues that impact tribal governments and their communities are widely varied, including environmental, safety, right of way, employment, cultural, planning and necessary communications.

We work with the tribes on these issues through different venues, such as meetings with tribal governments at their reservations, annual conferences and quarterly Advocacy Council for Tribal Transportation meetings.

What are some of your accomplishments?

We’ve had the success of reviewing road signs on reservations, adding new signs for reservation boundaries and community identification, and also creating a reservation road sign brochure to provide information for the design and placement of signs on state highways.

On May 15, 2009, the Roadside Vegetation Memorandum of Understanding between MnDOT and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was signed. Because of that, Minnesota received FHWA’s Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives and Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives award later that year for developing a process to manage vegetation without reliance on herbicides. Most tribes request that MnDOT not spray herbicides within reservations. The MOU is a model for all tribes and MnDOT districts in Minnesota.  

I also helped establish the Advocacy Council for Tribal Transportation. This group discusses roadway policy and issues involving roadways on or near Indian reservations. Membership includes representatives from 11 Minnesota tribes, MnDOT, FHWA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Michigan Tribal Technical Assistance Program, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, and Minnesota counties and cities.

What do you like most about your job?

What I like most about my job is that together, through understanding and cooperation, we have and are making a difference for the benefit of the tribal governments and communities, and for the good of all citizens of Minnesota.

On April 1, 2002, the tribal leaders, MnDOT Commissioner and FHWA Minnesota Division Administrator signed a Government to Government Transportation Accord. I believe it was evident at the 2011 Tribes and Transportation Conference in October that we’ve made tremendous advances toward the spirit of the accord.

What is most challenging about being the tribal liaison?

The challenge is to keep the forward motion. Developing and maintaining relationships with all Indian tribal governments that reside within Minnesota is an ongoing and continual process.

We recently heard from Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, that education about tribes and tribal issues is nonexistent in Minnesota. There is a saying that goes, “Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” So, my next goal is to help develop training to educate all MnDOT employees about tribal government and tribal issues.


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DNR, MnDOT receive first Better Government for a Better Minnesota collaboration award

By Jessica Wiens


A team of MnDOT and DNR employees receive the Better Government for a Better Minnesota collaboration award from Gov. Mark Dayton. (From left) DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr; Jason Alcott, Environmental Stewardship ecologist; Peter Leete, DNR transportation hydrologist; Julie Ekman, DNR; Gov. Mark Dayton; Frank Pafko, Environmental Stewardship director; Steve Colvin, DNR; Rich Baker, DNR; MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel. MnDOT file photo

The Department of Natural Resources and MnDOT recently received Gov. Mark Dayton’s first collaboration award as part of the Better Government for a Better Minnesota initiative. The award recognizes both agencies for reducing water permitting delays and improving environmental compliance for highway and bridge construction projects.

When projects take place near public waters, they are required to meet MnDOT quality standards and DNR environmental standards. The agencies created a liaison position and a best practices manual to improve efficiency.

“The manual helps MnDOT and contractors understand what they can do rather than what they can’t do,” said Peter Leete, DNR transportation hydrologist.

Leete works exclusively on permitting MnDOT projects. He reviews them early in the design process, provides DNR feedback and coordinates issues long before the project is let.  

“My record is clean,” Leete said. “No MnDOT projects have been delayed because of DNR permitting since I’ve been here.”

Early collaboration has trimmed the approval process from six steps to two steps. All water permitting for the Interstate 35W bridge replacement project in Minneapolis was completed in 10 days using the new process. 

Prior to 2004, MnDOT submitted projects to DNR at the final design phase. Project reviews could be delayed from land owner, county or city permit requests ahead of them in the queue or required changes to the project’s final design.    

MnDOT now gets public water permit approvals earlier and DNR receives funding from MnDOT to ensure timeliness.

Better Government for a Better Minnesota

Gov. Dayton announced the Better Government for a Better Minnesota initiative in October 2011 as a new way of doing business for state government that cultivates change throughout the state.

Better Government for a Better Minnesota is a mantra that government can make a positive difference in people’s lives, according to the Governor’s Office. But to do so, government cannot keep doing things the same old ways. By reevaluating systems, programs and layers of processes, the state will save money, reduce waste and make government work better for people.

For more information on the initiative, visit

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