Nov. 13, 2019
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Groundbreaking marks start of Hwy 14 project between Owatonna, Dodge Center

Ten men and women, each with a shovel in their hands, scoop sand from a large pile lined up in front of them

Gov. Tim Walz, Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher and other state and local officials broke ground for the Hwy 14 project Nov. 1 near Owatonna. The project, part of the Corridors of Commerce program, will expand Hwy 14 from two lanes to four lanes between Owatonna and Dodge Center, thus completing a continuous four-lane roadway between Interstate 35 and Rochester.

From left, Sheldon Steele, business manager, LIUNA Local #405; Greg Pelkey, Shafer Contracting project manager; state Sen. John Jasinski, Faribault; Gov. Tim Walz; state Rep. Brian Daniels, Faribault; Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher; Tom Kuntz, mayor of Owatonna; U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn; state Rep. John Petersburg, Waseca; and Mark Schoenfelder, transportation district engineer, District 6. Photo by Rich Kemp


Indigenous ERG sponsors 'Building Pathways at MnDOT'

Two pictures: the one on the left is a child sitting behind the wheel of a plow truck, and the one on the right shows adults and children lined up at a MnDOT table

Fifteen MnDOT offices and MnIT organized the Indigenous Employee Resource Group-sponsored “Building Pathways at MnDOT” event hosted by the White Earth Tribal Community College on Oct. 16. Attendees learned about MnDOT careers and met with Human Resources staff to apply for job openings. The event also featured drone display, 3-D demonstrations, a plow truck, bridge building and prize drawings. Photos by Adrien Carretero


Road weather technology improves the way MnDOT clears roads

By Anne Meyer

This screenshot shows a large map of Minnesota, with data indicators superimposed over various locations

This screen shot of the Maintenance Decision Support System website shows MnDOT snowplow routes, the locations of snowplows across the state, road alerts and the weather forecast. The MDSS website updates regularly with new data, and is customizable to help maintenance crews before, during and after a winter storm.

When snowplow operators clear snow or ice off a route, they have more than steel and salt on their side.

Nearly every truck in MnDOT’s fleet of about 800 is now equipped with road weather technology systems, giving drivers real-time data to determine the best course of action during each storm. Several systems work together to gather and share data with each operator and throughout the agency.

Road Weather Information Systems collect, process and distribute current weather and road surface information through mini sensor stations located across the state. These RWIS sites can be found on MnDOT’s 511 traveler information website.

Automated Vehicle Location Systems provide precise geographic locations of MnDOT snowplows while collecting road and weather data. This information serves as a mini mobile weather collection system. MnDOT integrated dash- or ceiling-mounted cameras into the AVL system more than four years ago, giving real-time views of road conditions from 275 snowplows statewide. This information is displayed on the 511 traveler information website.

Finally, a Maintenance Decision Support System uses data from RWIS and the AVL to provide a treatment recommendation for every snowplow route before, during and after a winter storm. This year, MnDOT will also have a dedicated weather forecaster through Iteris, MDSS’s parent company. The forecaster can focus on each storm and answer operator questions to enhance decision making.

Nine people lined up in front of a plow truck, with four holding certificates

MnDOT’s Road Weather Technology team poses with its Environmental Stewardship Award from the Freshwater Society. The team received the award at the Road Salt Symposium on Oct. 24 in St. Paul for its work to increase the use of technology to enhance resource decision making during winter storms. From left, Danny Flatgard, Jeff Jansen, Joe Huneke, Jakin Koll, Jay Pierzina, Alex Bruch, Doug Bakker, Tracy Olson, Julie Dodge and Jon Bjorkquist. Photo by Sue Lodahl

“MDSS has been a valuable tool in predicting weather and road conditions, and providing better response recommendations to help us be more efficient and effective with our resources, especially when it comes to the use of salt,” said Joe Huneke, road weather technology supervisor. “Even though we faced our worst winter weather in nearly a decade last season, we used 49,000 fewer tons of salt thanks in part to our road weather technology systems.”

Others are noticing this success as well. MnDOT’s Road Weather Technology group was given an Environmental Stewardship Award from the Freshwater Society at the recent Road Salt Symposium in St. Paul.

Huneke says the goal is to use the latest road weather technology, combined with training, to help snowplow operators determine the right material to use, in the right amount, at the right time and in the right place.



Staffing updates

By Joseph Palmersheim

Five headshots of, from left, Sara Severs, Tim Sexton, Levi Brown, Renee Dauenz, and Jim SkoogDeputy Commissioner Scott Peterson announced several organization changes in an email to staff Nov. 8:

  • The Office of Organizational Planning and Management will now report to Chief of Staff Sara Severs. Previously, it was under the Workforce and Agency Services Division.
  • Tim Sexton will fill the role of assistant commissioner and chief sustainability officer, and the Office of Sustainability will report to the deputy commissioner/chief engineer.
  • Levi Brown will lead the newly created Office of Tribal Affairs. The function has been under the government affairs umbrella since its creation in 2001. The office will report to Peterson.
  • Renee Raduenz will serve as the acting director of Public Engagement and Jim Skoog will serve as the acting Ombudsman effective Nov. 12.



Employees encouraged to reduce email storage during clean-up efforts

By Joseph Palmersheim

MnDOT offices and districts will be encouraged next month to eliminate excess email as part of an agency-wide clean-up effort.

The clean-up supports the strategy of promoting data governance across the agency by disposing of information that is no longer needed and storing information in the correct place. The office or district that reduces its email storage by the highest percentage by Jan 3, 2020, will win the MnDOT Golden Hard Drive. The first data storage clean-up week was held in spring 2016.

Previous Golden Hard Drive winners were:

  • District 6; Commissioner’s Office – spring 2019
  • Office of Transit and Active Transportation – fall 2018
  • Office of Civil Rights – spring 2018
  • Office of Environmental Stewardship – fall 2017
Employees will again be asked to dedicate four hours to review their business area's Outlook files between Dec. 2, 2019, and Jan. 3, 2020, and delete outdated non-record (redundant, obsolete or trivial) emails or delete records that have reached the end of their retention period. A government record is anything created or received in the course of business that documents what MnDOT does. They can be in any format: electronic data, paper or even physical artifacts.

Employees must fill out a records disposition report for all records they delete. State law requires all agencies to permanently retain a list of destroyed records.

Storage levels will be posted weekly on the Records Management webpage. The reduction will be measured by percentage so that larger districts or offices do not have an unfair advantage.



New case studies look at challenges, solutions in engaging the public

By Kjensmo Walker, Public Engagement

Seven new public engagement case studies, representing MnDOT projects and programs from around the state, have been added to the library of case studies on the public engagement website.

“These new case studies focus on many aspects of public engagement planning and execution,” said T.J. Melcher, District 2 public engagement director. “For example, the ‘Success through Failure’ case study shows how early positive feedback didn’t mean the entire community was on board with a road diet project. Instead, it required broader and deeper community input to shape the future of Hwy 2 in Bagley.”

Other examples include the Willmar Wye case study, which shows the importance of public engagement planning to complete a project with multiple public and private partners. The Red Wing Bridge case study follows the engagement process from planning through construction, focusing on helping the community feel connected, informed, and as though it is “their bridge.”

The case studies all follow the same format. Each begins with project background, followed by the specific challenge faced and tools used. Key takeaways are outlined and a caveat is given. There are case studies examining engagement all along the International Association of Public Participation spectrum (inform, consult, involve, collaborate, empower). District or program contact information is provided for more information on any particular case study.

Contact Kjensmo Walker with suggestions for additional case studies.



Owatonna Truck Station assists neighbors during emergency evacuation

By Mike Dougherty, District 6 Communications

Police vehicles block an intersection near the Owatonna truck statuon, as officers stand by

Emergency vehicles assembled near the Owatonna Truck Station Nov. 5 for an emergency at Daikin Industries, a manufacturing facility across the road from MnDOT. Photo by Mark Panek

When a neighbor is in need, MnDOT often lends a helping a hand.

The Owatonna Truck Station in District 6 opened its doors Nov. 5 to about 200 employees from HVAC manufacturer Daikin Industries, which has an facility located across the street from MnDOT on the city’s west side.

Company officials and emergency responders evacuated the building. Upon search of the building, authorities removed a suspicious device with the assistance of the St. Paul Police Department’s bomb squad.

As part of Daikin’s emergency plan, MnDOT agreed to house their employees in the truck station. They stayed at MnDOT for approximately five hours. MnDOT provided the employees shelter in its building, as well as coffee and other comfort and encouragement.

Mark Panek, assistant district engineer for west operations, said the MnDOT employees rose to the occasion.

“Many of our people helped out to assist the Daikin employees,” Panek said. “Our employees’ professionalism and helpfulness were extraordinary, and they should be proud. We’re very proud of what they did.”

Afterward, a leader from Daikin passed along their gratitude to Panek with a note on behalf of the company:

“Mark and Team,

I cannot thank you enough for your gracious hospitality to our Daikin employees yesterday!

I’m humbled and grateful to the wonderful staff at your facility and the kindness you’ve shown to our employees; from the warm place to shelter, to coffee, personal hygiene facilities and products, and supportive words of encouragement.

Your support during our emergency will not be forgotten by our staff! Your generosity made our stressful time much easier by opening your doors to our workers.

MnDOT is a fantastic neighbor and friend to us and the Owatonna community. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can ever be of assistance to you.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you and your fantastic team.



District 4's Kerry Donley says 'every day is different' as transportation generalist

By Rich Kemp

District 4 Transportation Generalist Kerry Donley has been with MnDOT for two years, and loves plowing snow. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Kerry Donley, a transportation generalist, says the thing he likes most about his job is that every day has something different. WE have a good group of guys to work with. I love to plow snow. Doesn't matter what job they give us, I enjoy all of them. The biggest challenge is working with the public in traffic. There are times when the drivers don't see us. When you see the flashing lights and arrow boards to move over, slow down and pay attention.

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

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