April 15, 2020
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We will get through this together

By Margaret Anderson Kelliher

photo: The I-35W bridge, lit up in blue

The Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis was lit up with light blue April 9 to honor healthcare providers and essential workers. Other landmarks and buildings in Minnesota, and in states across the country, were also lit blue to show support and gratitude to workers helping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Rich Kemp

I want to take a moment to say thank you for all that you do.

I know that in these uncertain times it can be difficult to see what lies ahead. As the Governor noted two Sundays ago in his State of the State address, “We're bracing for a storm of epic proportions ... We're a resilient people with a deep reserve of courage, optimism and grit. But this will be like a winter we've never seen before.” With everyone doing their part, however, we will get through this together.

In these times of social distancing and extended periods of time at home, it’s important to check-in with one another - albeit virtually - on a relatively regular basis. That’s why I’m happy to share with you a short video my husband David and I recorded for you outside my home. I miss being in the office and visiting the work in the field but in these extraordinary times, we must each do our part to prevent further spread of COVID-19. I plan to share more videos and check-in virtually as the Stay at Home order continues. I hope you enjoy the video; click here to check it out!

photo: Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Submitted photo

As we weather this storm together, I also want to take a moment to remind you of some changes we have made to maximize your safety and minimize disruptions to our services. This includes safety measures in our workplace, teleworking, reassigning and redeploying employees, and offering Paid COVID-19 Leave. You can also find this information and more on the employee SharePoint site, including the Employee Rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act document.

In case you are curious about what MnDOT and other state agencies are seeing in terms of COVID-19 impacts, the governor’s office has put together a dashboard website on the state’s COVID-19 response; it includes traffic data dating back to the beginning of March. Before the Peacetime Emergency was declared, Minnesota was averaging around 4 percent higher daily volumes than in 2019. Most recently, we’ve been seeing around a 35-45 percent decrease in daily traffic volumes compared to last year, and those numbers are generally similar in the Twin Cities metro and statewide.

Interested in donating medical supplies?
As with any storm or emergency, it is critical to ensure first responders and medical professionals have the supplies they need. If you have medical supplies and are interested in donating them, please contact the State Emergency Operations Center at (the email is public).

Update skills and pandemic availability
Regardless of your role or priority level, update your pandemic availability, skills profile, and contact information in Self Service. (Use the My Personal Information section in Self Service.) Continue to update this information if it changes. While not everyone will be contacted for a reassignment or redeployment, all of us must be willing to lend our skills and expertise when they are needed most.

We care about you and your health. Your mental health is an important part of your overall health and wellbeing. With the stress and social isolation that comes with COVID-19, it is more important than ever to maintain good strategies for your physical and mental health.

Here are tips and resources that can help you through this, and above all else, know where to get help.
Tips to support your mental health now:

  • Take breaks from the media. You can consume COVID-19 news all day, but know when to turn it off. Stay informed, but set boundaries when it's adding stress. Consider setting a time or article limit to balance getting the latest information with staying healthy.
  • Focus on what you can control. Despite the challenges, you can use this opportunity to focus on things that are within your control. Checking off tasks on your to-do list, getting a head start on spring cleaning, or learning something new can help you be productive and lift your spirits.
  • Stay social. Social connections play an important role in our health, and allow us to check in on the health of others. Stay socially connected but keep a physical distance. Set up virtual hangouts, send letters or emails, or go outside and talk on the phone.
  • Be kind to yourself and assist others. Helping others feels good and strengthens our community. Volunteer to sew masks, shop for others, or check in on your neighbors.

Thanks again for your continued commitment to each other and those we serve. Together, we will weather the storm.



MnIT@DOT keeps employees connected, working

By Joseph Palmersheim

photo: Heather Lukes, working from home

Heather Lukes, District 6 planner, works from her home in Stewartville, a small town south of Rochester. Submitted photo

Geometric layouts, the large-format design drawings of MnDOT roadway projects, are printed out on 36-inch wide rolls of paper that can be up to 10 feet long.

But how can business-as-usual take place when people can’t get together in the same room to sign off on the designs? The Geometrics unit and district design staff came up with a solution that created a PDF version of the geometrical layout which enabled collecting electronic signatures.

“If we couldn’t process the layouts electronically, we’d need to be in the office,” said Thomas Styrbicki, state design engineer. “It’s either that or we would need to delay our reviews, which could delay projects.”

Styrbicki’s story is one of the many examples of MnDOT employees figuring out new ways to do business in the age of COVID-19, stay at home orders and mass teleworking. MNIT@DOT has been working hard to keep everyone connected to the tools that help them get the job done as the state battles the pandemic.

More than 50 percent of MnDOT’s 5,200 employees are teleworking in some form. MNIT has responded to more than 200 remote user tickets per day, built and deployed about 150 laptops, and delivered instructions, job aids and information to employees when many didn’t have access to the internal network or intranet. MNIT staff also installed remote access and security software on more than 3,000 computers to enable remote work, and quadrupled virtual private network capacity.

The need for all this to happen wasn’t unexpected.

Photo: Peter Engelmeyer working from home

Peter Engelmeyer, District 7 project manager, working from home. Submitted photo

“My management team started to refresh the pandemic plan in February with a sense of what was coming,” said James Close, MNIT’s chief business technology officer at MnDOT. “We encouraged MNIT staff to test out working remotely, so we were able to have most staff remote the week of March 16, before MnDOT’s transition. Remote technology investments plans started in early to mid-March also. Things moved quickly and we just had to respond quickly. In doing this, we learned that virtual/remote support is more efficient and takes less time than deskside or live drop-in support, which isn’t available to remote workers.”

As more employees began working from home, MNIT saw a large increase in technology requests and business solutions to include laptop deployment, collaboration SharePoint sites, remote access options, conferencing technologies, and other collaboration features such as Skype dial-in for audio conferencing, network tips and VoIP voice email notices.

While home offices may recreate many of the amenities that an employee has at work, one key loss for many workers is the state’s network. The network provides users with powerful connectivity for all MnDOT applications. Other changes due to working from home include varying quality of Internet service providers, wireless performance and data plans. Finally, some impacts can boil down to something as simple as not having access to a printer.

Photo: Pois Butcher, working at home while wearing a silly hat

Lois Butcher, a financial services specialist based at Central Office, said, "I made the crazy hat just for this situation. I thought people could use a laugh when we were in Skype meetings. My teammates get a kick out of seeing the hat, but it doesn’t surprise them that I would be the one to come up with something silly." Submitted photo

As staff navigate a new normal, Close credits MNIT@DOT’s more than 250 employees with rising to the challenge of helping make it possible.

“They are incredibility smart, dependable and customer-focused,” he said. “They rose to the occasion and I’ll always be grateful. MNIT had to provide services that were resilient and ready to scale to unknown usage limits, meaning we had to monitor the hourly usage of our remote services, direct traffic to other user solutions to not overwhelm one service, and be ready to purchase, configure and test new technologies to meet the demands. The MNIT Service Desk, Remote Access and supporting services were repaving the roadway, while we were driving on it.”

Connect with MnIT@DOT




Community thread: Employees sew masks to fight COVID-19

Two women seated at seperate sewing machines

Annette Larson, South Central TZD Region coordinator (left), and Sue Johnson, Northwest TZD Region coordinator (right), have each been sewing masks, with some of them going to medical centers and nursing homes. Submitted photos

By Joseph Palmersheim

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).

With professional protective gear in short supply, people are finding creative ways to keep covered – including sewing masks for others. Annette Larson, South Central TZD Region coordinator, and Sue Johnson, Northwest TZD Region coordinator, have each been sewing masks, with some of them going to medical centers and nursing homes.

Larson started making masks during her free time around March 22.

“I had been on Facebook and saw a post that some of the healthcare systems are looking for people to make cloth masks,” she said. “I had some material and thought I would give it a try.”

So far, she has made more than 120 masks, some with fun materials like superhero fabric or bright patterns. When elastic wasn’t available, Larson got creative and used other elastic items, like headbands.

Larson gives most of the masks away. She recalls helping one woman whose three daughters are nurses in the Twin Cities metro area. The woman, who can’t see her children right now, called and asked if Larson knew anyone who made masks. Larson responded by bringing a few over, and giving them to the woman.

“She wanted to know what she owed me and I told her, ‘Nothing,’” Larson said. “Her response was priceless. She was so excited to have a mask. If I can do one thing to help someone in need and I’m able to, that’s the road I will pick. I truly believe that giving is one of the most rewarding things in life.”

Sue Johnson started making the masks several weeks ago, finding patterns on Facebook and Google.

“As of April 12, I’ve made 177 masks,” she said. “I have requests for about 100 more. Other than donating them locally to Sanford Medical Center, Oakland Park Nursing home, and some other local businesses, I am sending to family and friends throughout the U.S. I’m sending a Minnesota Vikings one off to Washington today.”

Johnson made her first masks for some family members and friends who have respiratory issues. People have also contacted her on Facebook and asked for one or two. She has mailed them out and also dropped them in people’s mailboxes.

Being able to do something for others has given Johnson a way to stay connected to her community during a challenging time.

“I love volunteering and having a sense of giving back to the community,” Johnson said. “This is just another way I can do that while not leaving my house. I really, really miss the social interaction, but this will have to do for now.”



State Emergency Operations Center provides opportunities to partner in emergencies

By Judy Jacobs, Office of Organizational Planning and Management  

Photo: people working in the basement of the SEOC

Personal safety is maintained by all representatives at the State Emergency Operations Center during the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing social distancing, hand washing and temperature checks. Photo submitted by the Department of Public Safety

As the COVID-19 virus impacts Minnesotans statewide, the State Emergency Operations Center provides a unified first line of defense to help keep residents safe.

The SEOC, activated March 18, coordinates emergency efforts between federal, state and local partners representing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Red Cross, Metro Transit, tribal communities, the National Guard, Bureau of Criminal Affairs and many others. It also provides assistance with natural disasters, such as the flooding currently occurring at several locations around the state.

During Gov. Tim Walz’s Stay at Home order, much of the SEOC’s work gets done through daily conference calls and WebEOC, a new online emergency management tool. HSEM also maintains a strong partnership with Twin Cities Public Television to translate its safety messages in three languages: Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

They also ensure that the deaf and hard of hearing community has access to news conferences by enlisting the services of an American Sign Language interpreters and incorporating closed captioning on all live broadcasting and videos.

Safety of the state, local and federal representatives who are working at the SEOC is of utmost importance, according to Shannon McNulty, a certified emergency manager and state principal planner with MnDOT’s Office of Administration, Department of Emergency Management.

“Before we can even check into the SEOC and pick-up our badges, we have to wash our hands,” she said. “Everyone has their temperature taken, we are asked qualifying questions and then issued a wristband to ensure that each person working in the room has been health checked.”

McNulty has advice for how to behave in a pandemic or other state emergency.

“If you can stay home, stay home. If you think you have been exposed, tell your supervisor and stay home. If you need to run an errand for groceries, get in and get out - don’t dawdle,” she said. “During a normal state emergency, listen and do whatever the governor, emergency management and law enforcement officials are telling you to do. They are looking out for your safety.”

In addition to the COVID-19 activities at the SEOC, representatives are assisting with flood efforts in northwestern Minnesota. The National Guard was recently dispatched to help with traffic control and levee patrol along the Red River.    

“I am always really proud when I can represent MnDOT at the SEOC,” McNulty said. “The folks there are always so amazed at all the great resources MnDOT can provide to the state of Minnesota.”

Minnesota first created its Department of Civil Defense in 1951 under the auspices of then-Gov. C. Elmer Anderson in an effort to keep the state ready for disasters.

Hotlines are available to answer questions about business, school, child care and health questions. For health-related questions, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website before calling the hotline numbers listed below.

Business, school and childcare questions
SEOC Hotline
800-657-3504 (toll-free)
Preferred relay service may also be used

Health questions
MDH Hotline:
800-657-3903 (toll-free)
Preferred relay service may also be used



2020 state construction program continues as planned despite pandemic

By J.P. Gillach

Photo: a screen capture of a map, showing the Can of Worms project in Duluth

This year's construction website features an electronic map with details for all of the construction projects being worked on this year.

MnDOT announced April 2 that it will undertake 188 projects to maintain roads and bridges during the 2020 construction season.

Crews also will work on 66 multimodal projects to improve safety at railroad crossings, and repair or improve infrastructure at airports, water ports and transit centers.

The annual program announcement comes when the state is under a Stay at Home order, effective until May 4. However, because road work is one of several services identified as essential under the governor’s executive order, the 2020 construction program can move ahead as planned.

“It is critical that MnDOT continue its work to maintain and improve our state’s transportation infrastructure,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “Construction projects will continue as scheduled and within the guidance set by state and federal health officials to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We are especially grateful to our employees and partners in labor and the private sector for working together and prioritizing safety for workers on project sites.”

A new website features a full project list and interactive map. No in-person news conference took place this year due to safety concerns with COVID-19 and social distancing. Instead, the commissioner and district staff conducted individual interviews with the news media.

Visit to learn more.



Counters show statewide increase in people walking, bicycling

By Anne Meyer

Photo: A bicyclist stopped at an electronic bike and pedestrian counter on the Franklin Avenue bridge. An digital display indicated that 738 people have paassed by the location.

MnDOT has more than 20 permanent counters, like this one on the Franklin Avenue bridge, and dozens of portable units across the state. MnDOT staff photo

While counts show reduced vehicle traffic on roadways, the opposite is true for people walking and bicycling during Governor Walz’s Stay at Home Order.

MnDOT can track this data thanks to pedestrian and bicyclist counters. There are more than 20 permanent counters and dozens of portable units across the state.

The counters show walking and bicycling are up 72 percent statewide since the March 13 peacetime state of emergency declaration. The increase is even higher, at 83 percent, in greater Minnesota. Walking and bicycling facilities in the Twin Cities are the busiest in the state, and even those areas are seeing a 59 percent increase on average.

“It’s great to see that people are out walking and bicycling, and we want to encourage everyone to be safe while doing so,” said Tori Nill, director of the Office of Transit and Active Transportation. “This includes keeping a physical distance of at least six feet from other people whenever possible, washing hands after each trip and follow advice from state health experts. It’s also important to watch for more people walking and bicycling while you’re behind the wheel.”

The OTAT team is busy analyzing the new data from the pedestrian and bicyclist counters. These numbers can be helpful to inform state, regional and local planners, and engineers for future projects. Data can also impact policies or programs like Complete Streets and Toward Zero Deaths. OTAT plans to add more permanent counters across the state in the coming years.

Learn more about MnDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian count program and see a map of the counter locations to see if one is near your community.



Librarians provide virtual assistance while library space is closed

By Micaela Resh, Office of Reseach and Innovation

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep Minnesotans safe, MnDOT’s library’s physical space is temporarily closed to comply with Governor Walz’s Stay at Home order.

MnDOT’s librarians are still hard at work and ready to offer virtual assistance. Here are some of the resources available to help staff do their work:

Ask a Librarian

Have a specific question that you need answered? Submit your question via Ask a Librarian.

Accessing Print Materials from Library Collections

Library staff will retrieve print materials on an as-needed basis, and will mail them to your home or office.

Accessing Digital Resources

Need to access a journal or article? Check out the online catalog, databases and online journals.

Returning Library Materials

  • Due dates for most materials have been extended.
  • Exam study and testing materials may be checked out or renewed by contacting the library.

Other Questions?

For all other questions, visit the MnDOT library website, email, or call 651-366-3791. 



On the Job: District 2's Bryan Delaney keeps plows rolling, projects moving

By Rich Kemp

District 2's Bryan Delaney has served as a transportation materials technician in District 2 for the last two years. We caught up with him recently to learn more about his job. The image below is linked to a larger version.

Bryan says                 I am a Transportation Materials Technician for District 2 Bemidji. I have been with MnDOT for 2 years. Our primary responsibility in Inventory is to keep our plow trucks on the road during snow & ice and keep construction, bridge and road maintenance rolling during the construction season. We also supply our truck stations and offices with a wide variety of items as well. My favorite part of the job is that no day is the same. There is always a new fire to put out or a problem to solve. Working in Inventory we wear so many hats and deal with such a wide variety of personalities that there is rarely a dull moment. One of our biggest challenges is being a rural district. Another challenge is helping everyone plan ahead for each project so that we can operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. It can also be challenging to anticipate needs with the changing of the seasons and usage of seasonal items that we stock.

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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