March 4, 2020
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Staff prepping Hwy 5 airport project for takeoff

By Gail Vold Greco, Metro District Communications and Engagement

Photo: the logo for the Around the Airport project

Reconstruction of Hwy 5 in front of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has Metro District staff launching a major effort to make sure those headed to a flight or one of the nearby tourist spots know to plan ahead to arrive on time.

Crews will repair 1.7 miles of Hwy 5 between Interstate 494 and Hwy 62 (Mississippi River) in the months ahead. Work includes resurfacing roads and repairing 12 bridges. Eastbound Hwy 5 will be closed from April until late July, and westbound Hwy 5 will close from early August until October. During July, several bridges and ramps will be closed at the Hwy 5/55/62 interchange. As part of a separate but concurrent project, I-494 eastbound will have six weekend closures between Mendota Heights and South Saint Paul.

“Typically, a project like this would have a two-year schedule, but the work has been accelerated to one season to minimize the impact on travelers,” said Aaron Tag, west area engineer. “Additionally, it’s been scheduled to fit between spring break and MEA weekend, two of the biggest air travel periods of the year.”

The closures and detours will mean the drive to the airport - or to nearby destinations such as the Mall of America or Fort Snelling - may take longer, especially during peak weekday travel times. Motorists should plan for an extra hour on the road if their destination is the airport. The Metro Blue Line, which connects directly to the airport, provides a car-free option; light rail travel times won’t be affected by the road construction.

Because nearly 30,000 vehicles enter MSP’s Terminal 1 daily, the project's communication plan is expansive. A website with an interactive map, current traffic impacts and tools tailored to individual audiences will launch later this week at In conjunction, advertisements will begin later this month, with ads scheduled to run on outdoor billboards on digital displays in the airport, downtown skyways and light rail platforms; six radio stations; and digital and mobile ads. Social media will be woven into the campaign using the #AroundTheAirport hashtag.

The project will have its public kickoff Tuesday, March 10, with a news conference at MSP. Leaders from MnDOT, Metropolitan Airports Commission, Delta Airlines and Metro Transit will announce the work and describe how each organization has a crucial role in keeping the traveling public informed.

“Please share information about the project with your neighbors and co-workers, your family and friends,” said Dave Aeikens, Metro District public affairs coordinator. “Raising awareness across Minnesota and directing people to will ensure travelers statewide have a safer, less stressful trip.”



MNIT unveils new look for MnDOT IT Storefront page

By Bobby Underhill, MNIT

Photo: a computer screen with the new IT storefront website displayed

MnDOT’s IT Storefront has a new look and feel.

MNIT@DOT recently upgraded the IT Storefront system to an enhanced platform with easy-to-navigate drop-downs, fewer clicks needed and the flexibility to update information to improve user experiences. No login will be required for the site, which will still be accessed by selecting the gold surfer icon on desktops. This new format will look and feel consistent with other state websites.

The upgraded IT Storefront also has a new web address. Bookmarks, shortcuts or “favorites” in browsers should be updated to

Contact the IT Help Desk with any questions.



Geohazard mapping helps identify, respond to risk of slope failure along highways

By Micaela Resh, Office of Research & Innovation               

Photo: a torrent of brown water rushes past a stretch of paved road.

The new GIS model identifies and maps slopes of high risk, like this ditch that washed out on Hwy 169 in Belle Plaine. MnDOT file photo.

Slope failures can block roads, damage pavement and cause safety hazards. They can also be costly to repair.

For example, Carlton County received up to 11 inches of rain in June 2012, causing flood damage and slope failures along Minnesota Hwy 210. Reconstruction cost $21.3 million dollars, using federal and state emergency funds.

A recently funded research implementation project aims to identify geohazards - such as landslides and rock falls - to better equip highway construction project managers with tools to identify and mitigate risk. Raul Velasquez, geomechanics research engineer, Office of Materials and Road Maintenance, is overseeing a study conducted by WSB & Associates.

The research team is analyzing satellite images to identify areas with geohazards. Geohazards include areas with shallow rock, sinkholes and soft or sensitive soil. This information will be added to map layers in Georilla, MnDOT’s internal web map application. Project managers can pull this information during the scoping and planning phases of a construction project.

“The earlier we know about a risk, the better,” Velasquez said. “That way we can proactively mitigate the risk or choose a different project location, if needed.”

This project builds on existing MnDOT statewide georisk modeling research. Phase 1 and Phase 2 were completed last year, and Phase 3 is expected to be completed by the end of August 2020.

Researchers will map northwest Minnesota (MnDOT District 2) over the next six months while refining and recalibrating existing maps. As slope failures occur, the researchers will evaluate whether the tool accurately predicted the event.

While geohazard mapping is applied in other industries in Minnesota, this approach is new with state DOTs. The technology has the potential to reduce risk of future road closures due to slides and sinkholes, safety hazards to the public, and puts MnDOT in a position of mitigating risk instead of reactively responding to geological emergencies.

“Avoiding high-risk areas can help us reduce material loss, improve human safety, and save taxpayer dollars,” said Velasquez.

The research team presented this project at the 2020 Geo-Congress.

Visit MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation webpage to request project updates or learn more.



Staffing updates

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: Katie Hatt

Katie Hatt. Photo by Rich Kemp

Katie Hatt is MnDOT’s new rail director. Her first day was Feb. 20.

She will oversee the Governor’s Council on Freight Rail. Most recently, Hatt served as a policy advisor with Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan on several issues, including state government finance, government operations and pensions. Her prior experience includes serving as the executive director of the North Star Policy Institute, a think tank focused on policy issues; as a research consultant for the Minnesota House of Representatives DFL Caucus; as a housing policy analyst at the Metropolitan Council; and as the principal aide to Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

Hatt earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from the University of Minnesota and completed graduate level coursework at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

She can be reached at or 651-366-4791.



Event recognizes 'Black History and the 15th Amendment'

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher joined members of the African American Employee Resource Group during the Black History Month event Feb. 20. From left are Trumanue Lindsey, Bridge Office; April Lucas, Office of Maintenance; Commissioner Anderson Kelliher; Yashica Taylor, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicles; Glenn Payton, Office of Human Resources; Jesse Johnson, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicles; and Victoria Hopwood, MNIT, who was one of the featured speakers at the event. Hopwood spoke about the history and importance of the black vote. Photo by Rich Kemp


'Snowmobile to Work Day' tradition survives despite mild winter

Photo: two snowmobiles parked in a MnDOT employee lot

Before a stretch of mild weather melted away their chances, a few MnDOT employees in Owatonna kept an annual tradition intact by driving their snowmobiles to the job on Feb. 27. A “snowmobile to work day” started several years ago at the truck station, but this year was one of the earliest dates employees have done the ride. Last year at this time crews in southern Minnesota were still digging out from back-to-back February blizzards, so “snowmobile to work day” happened on March 7. Photo by Mark Panek.


On the Job: Elizabeth Bourquin supports District 2 management team, engineers

By Rich Kemp

District 2's Elizabeth Bourquin has been an executive assistant for two years. We caught up with her recently to learn more about her role. The image below is linked to a larger version.

Elizabeth says I support the District 2 Management team and the District Engineer. The Managers are great to work with!  They appreciate my assistance and make me feel part of their team.  I love coming in every day because you never know what will come to you to fix, work on or secure.  Iím able to rely on my experiences and provide administrative solutions to problems.  District staff are awesome and I enjoy learning about different units and the work they do.  Iím in awe of the people that make it all happen and proud to be a part of it. Learning MnDOT as an agency is a big task Ė one that just canít happen overnight.  Learning the terms and work processes has been much easier because of the support and knowledge of staff in D2 but also, all over the state.

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. 

Recent employee profiles: 


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