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Jan. 19, 2011
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District 1 invention combats North Shore ice

By Bob Filipczak

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From left, Hans Lund, Silver Bay Truck Station and Scott Wistrom, North Shore field mechanic, make sure "The Tooth" is ready for its next use in the field. Photo by Mike Hedlund

Lake Superior’s North Shore presents some unique challenges for employees charged with keeping the roads in shape.

Lately, District 1 maintenance crews have been wrestling with ditches filling with water and freezing, according to Mike Hedlund, District 1 transportation operations supervisor. When water starts flowing due to thawing or rain, there’s nowhere for it to go except over the road.

“It’s the nature of the North Shore—there’s so much water and it doesn’t soak into the ground,” Hedlund said. “Everything must cross from one side of our highway to the other to get to Lake Superior.”

Maintenance crews had been using a backhoe in attempts to break up the ice, but it wasn’t cutting through. This prompted a team of District 1 maintenance employees led by Jerry Larson and Hans Lund, Silver Bay Truck Station, and Scott Wistrom, North Shore field mechanic, to build a custom device specifically constructed to cut through large chunks of ice. 

“The Tooth,” as the team named it, attaches to the scoop on a backhoe and digs deeply into the ice forming in ditches.

“The device is used to dig a trench so water can flow, or to find the end of a frozen culvert,” Hedlund said.

The device they are using now might be more accurately called Tooth II, because their first design didn’t quite cut it. After their first attempt, “they learned that it needs to be pretty beefy,” Hedlund said, “so they added a lot of reinforcement.”

Headlines TABLE of CONTENTS

2011 legislative session begins; numerous transportation bills introduced

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Peter Dahlberg began his mobility as Mn/DOT’s legislative liaison assistant Jan. 10. Dahlberg most recently served as a freight planner in the Office of Freight & Commercial Vehicle Operations. Photo by Nick Carpenter

The 2011 legislative session officially began Jan. 4, as legislators from around the state work to sort out the $6 billion General Fund deficit.

Both the Senate Transportation Committee and House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee welcomed some new faces—seven freshman senators and six freshman representatives respectively. Sen. Joe Gimse of Willmar is the new committee chair in the Senate, while Rep. Mike Beard of Shakopee has taken over in the House.

Numerous transportation-related bills have been introduced so far by both committees. They include:

  • Prohibiting cell phone use while driving (S.F. No. 18)
  • Appropriating money for the Interstate 694/White Bear Avenue interchange (H.F. No. 119)
  • Designating a memorial bridge over Hwy 14 in Rochester (H.F. No. 93)
  • Appropriating money for the I-694/Rice Street interchange (H.F. No. 118)
  • Designating Hwy 14 in southern Minnesota as the “Black and Yellow Trail” (H.F. No. 39)
  • Authorizing annual special permits for transporting waterfront structures on state highways (H.F. No. 80)

To view the status of bills and committee schedules, visit http://www.leg.state.mn.us. In addition, legislative summaries for the 2011 session are available at: http://ihub.dot.state.mn.us/governmentaffairs/legislative2011/.

Headlines TABLE of CONTENTS

Mn/DOT implements online community input

By Stephany Osuji, Office of Customer Relationship Management

It has been almost one year since Mn/DOT invited 600 Minnesotans to join an interactive community aimed at encouraging an open dialogue between the department and its customers with the goal of understanding the public's transportation-related needs. The department has addressed several topics in that time, including freeway overhead messaging, Facebook and Twitter communications, late merge and roundabouts.

“Mn/DOT wants to know what Minnesotans are thinking about transportation and what Minnesotans want transportation to be and do,” said Karla Rains, Mn/DOT Market Research director. “The Online Community serves as a research tool that helps the department confirm and adjust to how we design, deliver and communicate our state transportation services.”

For example, the department asked the community what they thought the primary purpose should be for the overhead signs they see on highways. The majority of residents said they were okay with displays of occasional traffic-related public service announcements, as long as they  are not overused for PSAs and do not take precedence over traffic incidents or rerouting advisories.

“With this information and additional data, the department will be able to establish criteria and gauge public tolerance of additional messages on the overhead signs besides travel times, traffic accidents or rerouting advisories,” Rains said.

Mn/DOT also asked the community what sort of information they wanted and expected to see on the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The community responded that they would like to continue seeing construction updates, traffic advisories and road weather conditions. However, there was some acceptance of breaking up the usual social media updates with an occasional fact or trivia piece about transportation in Tweets or Facebook posts.

“This feedback, along with other responses, will prepare the department for future interactions and expectations from those who follow or ‘like’ Mn/DOT pages,” Rains said.

Issues with late merging and roundabouts also served as frequent topics of conversation within the community. Surveys asked community members to share their current behavior when approaching a late merge or roundabout, if they knew the ideal way to use a roundabout or late merge and how likely they would be to change this behavior to the ideal way. The community was then asked what channels they would like to find information on how to use and the benefits of a roundabout or late merge.

Survey results will be used toward an education initiative focused on effectively informing the public about the correct way to use late merges and roundabouts, according to Rains.

For more information about the online community, including recent reports on various topics addressed in the community, visit ihub.dot.state.mn.us/onlinecommunity/.

Business TABLE of CONTENTS

Mike Ginnaty named new Office of Technical Support director

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Mike Ginnaty recently began his new role as acting director of the Office of Technical Support. Mn/DOT file photo

Mike Ginnaty recently began his new role as acting director of the Office of Technical Support. Ginnaty most recently served as director of the Office of Project Scope and Cost Management, which is merging with the Office of Technical Support.

Ginnaty’s Mn/DOT career began in 1990 as a graduate engineer in Central Office Design Automation, then Measurement and Business Planning before moving to District 4 in 1994. In addition to his ADE role, Ginnaty also has served as Detroit Lakes’ bridge engineer and design engineer.

Prior to joining Mn/DOT, he worked for a construction company as a project manager/estimator.

Ginnaty graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1984 with a degree in Civil Engineering.
Business TABLE of CONTENTS

Transition Plan provides overview of organization; highlights key initiatives, performance

How Mn/DOT is delivering a sustainable transportation system through wise stewardship of financial resources, a commitment to critical products and services, and a promise to meet customer needs are just some of the topics addressed in Mn/DOT’s Transition Plan, 2011.

The plan, which also details how the agency is addressing key issues, policies and initiatives, was developed to help orient the new administration to Mn/DOT. Materials in the plan also summarize the department's organizational structure, strategic vision, funding, transportation program and performance measures.

To view the plan, visit: http://ihub.dot.state.mn.us/transition/.

Business TABLE of CONTENTS

New Library Materials posted on Web

By Qin Tang

The December 2010 edition of New Library Materials is now available at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/library/newlibmat.html.

Check out the latest New Library Materials to view photos of the recently completed library remodeling project and grand reopening celebration.

New Library Materials is a compilation of new titles and other resources added to the library collection during the previous month. If you would like to be added to the distribution list, please contact Pam Gonzalez at 651-366-3749.  

For other information requests, contact the library at 651-366-3791 or e-mail library.dot@state.mn.us. Employees can also send requests via the “Ask a Librarian” Web page at ihub.library/asklibrarian.html or www.dot.state.mn.us/library/asklibrarian.html.

Variety TABLE of CONTENTS

On the job: District 1ís Bob Wryk plans ahead one last time

By Lisa Yang

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Bob Wryk, District 1 Maintenance superintendent, is responsible for maintaining all state highways in District 1. Photo by Dave Ollila

As District 1 Maintenance superintendent, Bob Wryk is always planning a season ahead to make sure the public can travel as safe as possible, whether it’s winter or summer.

Wryk is responsible for all state highways in District 1. The maintenance crews under his direction take care of everything they can on the roads, including filling potholes, installing guardrails, managing snow and ice removal, sweeping roads, trimming trees and removing debris.

Wryk began his Mn/DOT career in 1979 as a Maintenance employee at Metro District’s Maple Grove Truck Station. He then became intermittent supervisor at the Plymouth Truck Station before being promoted to Metro District nighttime supervisor, the department’s first permanent full-time night supervisor. Wryk’s next stop brought him to the western edge of Metro District, where he worked as supervisor of the Camden Truck Station until he was promoted to Metro District superintendent in 1996. Wryk then headed north to District 2-Bemidji before arriving at his final stop in District 1-Virginia, where he has spent the past three years. Wryk plans to retire in June.

Describe your typical workday.

It starts at 4:30 in the morning. I jump on the computer by 6 a.m., check the weather and see what’s going to happen that day and what will happen that night. Then, I meet with the six supervisors who I manage and who direct the maintenance crews. We discuss what their agenda is for the day and when they plan to do certain tasks.

Most of my interactions are with those supervisors. I also receive assistance from two of my employees.

I have meetings almost every day in Duluth, Virginia, International Falls, St. Paul, St. Cloud and wherever I’m needed.

What challenges do you face in your job?

One of my challenges is personnel issues. I personally like to go out to the truck stations if there are issues that my supervisors need help with. Since I’m the only superintendent in District 1, I do a lot of traveling to get to the truck stations or to different offices.

I stay in touch with Human Resources to remedy maintenance personnel issues that occur all around the district, including incidents on the road or injuries on the job.

Our people are working out there to make sure that it’s safe for the public to travel and they do a good job. I want to make sure that our people are safe while working too.

Do you have any success stories you would like to share?

We came up with a plan to put together a district guardrail crew that would go to different areas and repair guardrail. It actually happened and the guardrail crew performed excellent. We had the right people, all the materials—we got a lot done and it was great to see something work that we came up with.

Do you have any goals you want to achieve before retiring in June?

I want to make sure the summer work plan will be good; there’s always something that should be done differently to make things a little better—a little faster. I want to make sure the person taking my job after I leave will have good notes about what should happen, like a better way to split shifts for better coverage, improve bridge cleaning to make it safer for motorcycles, balance the budget and rent or not rent certain equipment.

I also want to be able to say goodbye to everybody. I’ll miss the people. My experience here has been excellent.

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.

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