June 23, 2021
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When the heat beats the street: sustained high temps cause road buckles

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: broken concrete

Pavement buckles, like this one in District 3, happen when sustained high temperatures don't allow concrete to cool down at night. The stress on the pavement can build until the weakest point breaks. MnDOT staff photo

When recent, sustained temperatures hit the upper 90s and stayed there, reports of buckled roadways went up, too.

As of Friday, June 4, crews in the Twin Cities metro area had repaired 46 pavement buckles.

Buckles happen when the air temperature changes from moderate to extreme heat.

“Concrete expands when it is warm, at temperatures greater than 70 degrees, and shrinks when it gets colder, at temperatures below 50 degrees,” said Timothy Andersen, pavement design engineer, Office of Materials and Road Research. “It typically gets hot during the day, in the mid to high 90s, and cools off to the low 80s overnight. With the very warm nights, the concrete is not allowed to shrink or relieve its stress that was built up during the hot sunny day time. With hot days and very warm nights, the stress continues to build up day after day until the weakest location of the pavement cannot handle the stress and buckles.”

Buckle repair involves removing the broken concrete and replacing it with bituminous material. Preventing another buckle from happening in the same spot can be helped by using thicker concrete, but the forces that create buckles will find the next weakest location in the roadway, Andersen said.

Drivers should change lanes to avoid the buckle if it is safe to do so. Otherwise, they should slow down if they have to drive over the buckle. MnDOT considers pavement buckles to be a traffic emergency, so drivers should call 911 to report the buckle. This allows dispatch to send crews to the area as soon as possible to for repairs.

Learn more about pavement buckles.



Coordination with cities helps District 7 minimize inconvenience on Hwy 60 ‘The Lake Connection’ project

By Doris Degenstein, District 7 Communications

Photo: construction site. One lane is paved, one lane is dirt.

Paving operations on Hwy 60 west of Madison Lake in District 7. Photo by Bailey Wolff

After working closely with the cities of Madison Lake, Elysian and Waterville over the past few years, MnDOT District 7 has begun construction on 17 miles of Hwy 60 from south of Madison Lake to Waterville. Work is anticipated to last through October.

The $21 million project includes full-depth reclamation, roadway widening using geotechnical products, hydraulic improvements and road reconstruction in the city of Madison Lake.

Recognizing the inconvenience of construction to residents, businesses and travelers, especially during a busy season for the many lakes connected throughout the project corridor, MnDOT is completing construction in one year, working in two stages, each with its own detour. The contractor and MnDOT staff have also been working closely with property and business owners to minimize impacts.

”One of the more significant challenges during this fast-paced construction project has been providing up-to-date information and accessibility to the local residents and visitors to the region’s many outdoor attractions,” said Todd Kjolstad, project supervisor. “MnDOT District 7 staff’s creative efforts have provided multiple options for the public to provide input during project development, be informed of impacts and ask questions along the way. We used a variety of engagement and communication tools to reach the communities along the corridor.”

Working closely with the local residents, MnDOT scheduled detours to avoid impacting the Fourth of July celebration in Elysian and Paddle Fish Days, scheduled for late July in Madison Lake. Both events are a high priority to the communities.

The Hwy 60 Lake Connection project started in March with the clearing and removal of trees, which needed to be done early in the year to prevent protected bats from making their homes in trees.

Phase 1 – Eagle Lake to Elysian

Stage 1 of construction is focusing on Hwy 60 from the junction of Hwy 14 east of Eagle Lake to Elysian. It will last until mid-July.

In Madison Lake, two new left-turn lanes will be added, along with new street lighting, sidewalks, curb and pedestrian ramps. As Hwy 60 separates downtown businesses from the lake, new bump-out curbs and pedestrian-activated flashing lights are being added to provide safer crossings.

View an animated video of the Madison Lake improvements

Phase 2 – Elysian to Waterville

The second stage of construction will include pavement improvements and take place on Hwy 60 Elysian to the junction with Hwy 13 at Waterville from July through October.

“We are pleased that the weather has been favorable since the start of construction, and we are hopeful that trend will continue for the remainder of the project,” Kjolstad said.



MnDOT, NASA partner to plan for Advanced Air Mobility

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: a drone in the sky

Coming soon to a sky near you: MnDOT and NASA are planning for the future of advanced air mobility integration, where drones like this one might be used for a variety of purposes. Photo by Rich Kemp

While the name “NASA” may conjure images of rockets and satellites, the agency is also involved with matters closer to terra firma.

One of these is a partnership with MnDOT (and four other government entities nationwide) to help plan for the future of flight. This month marks the start of a series of five workshops with NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility team. These will identify areas of opportunity and concern with Advanced Air Mobility integration, and discuss strategies for future engagement and planning.

“Advanced Air Mobility” refers to new aviation technology (such as electric aircraft or drones) providing local aviation services that are accessible, equitable and sustainable.

“MnDOT actually has a long history of partnering with NASA,” said Cassandra Isackson, director, Office of Aeronautics. “For many years, we received a NASA grant for aviation education activities. NASA does a lot in the broader world of aeronautics. For example, they manage the Aviation Reporting Safety System, where pilots and others in aviation can confidentially report safety issues.”

Workshop participants include partners from local governments, airports, universities and others. Tasks include identifying a common set of definitions and terms, and evaluating development of “vertiports” for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

The NASA partnership gives MnDOT a chance to collaborate with experts as the Office of Aeronautics works on its first draft of an Air Mobility Strategic Plan. The plan aims to incorporate advanced aircraft into the state’s multi-modal transportation system.

It’s perhaps not as far off a future as it seems.

“The first electric vertical takeoff aircraft will likely be certified for commercial flight in 2023,” said Katie Gilmore, Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager. “Adoption in Minnesota will depend on the interest of our citizens, the readiness of our infrastructure and investments by industry.”

Other partners with the NASA work include the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; the North Central Texas Council of Governments Department of Transportation; the Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of the Ohio Department of Transportation; and the city of Orlando, Fla.



New Special Revenue Funds Policy replaces Partnership Policy

By Cindy Yost, Office of Financial Management

A new Special Revenue Funds policy that addresses contracts using Special Revenue Funds (2000 and 2001 Funds) aims to provide guidance and consistency around roles and responsibilities across the agency.

Since the Special Revenue Fund Policy is applied agency-wide, Office of Financial Management worked closely with Contract Management to align the Special Revenue Funds Policy with the Contract Management Policy to replace the old Partnership Policy. The Contract Management Policy gives guidance for all contracts, while the Special Revenue Fund Policy gives guidance for all contracts involving non-federal receipts from third parties.

One change involves separating procedures from the policy to help eliminate confusion and streamline the process.

Links to the new Special Revenue Fund Policy and procedures:

Special Revenue Funds Policy (2021)
Special Revenue Funds Procedures (2021)

The Office of Financial Management will continue to work with offices and districts to begin developing a training program for the new policy and procedures.

The proposed training will bring additional clarity to the Special Revenue Fund process by helping to identify the correct funding string to invoice and deposit, identify relevant expenses to be applied towards the contractual amount in the year in which they were incurred, and document procedures for the return of funds.

Questions can be directed to



Upcoming events

Keep up-to-date on MnDOT staff-related events by regularly checking the iHUB calendar. Events coming up in the next two weeks include:

  • June 29: MnDOT Virtual Pride Parade

The Policy Planning Unit is hosting a series of online trivia events as part of “Let’s Talk Transportation!” This live trivia game presents transportation issues using colorful comics that encourage people to share their transportation experiences.

  • June 24 (4-4:45 p.m.) – Aging Infrastructure
  • June 25 (noon to 1 p.m.) – Agency wide – multiple topics
  • June 30 (noon to 1 p.m.) – Transportation Options
  • July 1 (4-4:45 p.m.) – Safety

View full calendar



‘MnDOT Minute’ video campaign earns communications award

By Joseph Palmersheim

The “MnDOT Minute” video series featuring short takes on winter maintenance and other topics recently earned a first place finish from the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators in its annual awards competition.

The award category was “Video Campaign or Series.”

These minute-long videos, covering  topics such as equipment (e.g., the icebreaker) and processes (e.g., pretreating), were posted on MnDOT’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) beginning in January 2021.

The process for one video usually takes several weeks, said Anne Meyer, Office of Communications and Public Engagement, who managed the campaign series. All work was produced by MnDOT staff.

“We shoot the interviews first to get the information and know what sound bites we want to use to highlight the expertise of our employees,” she said. “I write the script, making sure to stay around the one minute timeframe. The communications team, interviewee and maintenance leadership review each draft video script. With final approval, the editing process begins, with Video Services editing the video and adding the graphics. Then I work with our social media coordinator to draft a social media post to ‘release’ the video.”

Public response to the videos has been great, according to Meyer. In the case of “What is an Icebreaker?” for example, the video has reached more than 1.6 million people on Facebook, received 4,100 views on Twitter and another 2,400 views on Instagram.

With 10 videos already done, Meyer is looking for more things to cover – provided the video stays within the time limit described in its name.

“That’s the challenge,” she said. “We want to give the public a better understanding of what we do and why, without overwhelming them with too much information. And I always think it is important to highlight how drivers can help us get the job done, like slowing down and giving us room to work.”

Look for MnDOT Minute videos on MnDOT’s FacebookTwitter and Instagram pages.



On the Job: Katie Heinz maps Twin Cities wetlands

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: Katie Heinz

Katie Heinz drives a water ATV on a prescription burn at a mitigation site south of Jordan, Minn. The water ATV is responsible for laying down a wet border before crews light the fire line and also for helping to keep the fire going in the direction it needs to go. Submitted photo

Katie Heinz has spent 14 of her 22 years with MnDOT as a Metro District wetland coordinator. She identifies and maps wetlands within MnDOT right of way, assists with the wetland permitting for highway projects and helps manage the MnDOT wetland mitigation sites in the Twin Cities area.

What do you find interesting about your work?
I love that there are lots of activities I get to do. I work inside with GIS and CAD. I work outside identifying and documenting plants, digging holes, coloring the soils and detailing hydrology. I also maintain wetland mitigation sites by monitoring, burning and harvesting seeds.

How did you end up becoming interested in a water-related career?
I have always loved being on the water, whether swimming or skiing, being in a boat, canoe, raft or tube. I earned a degree in Earth science geology with a minor in environmental studies, and took all the water-related classes that were offered at St. Cloud State University. I started with MnDOT’s Water Resources department and after seven years had an opportunity to start working with wetlands. I jumped at the chance!

How does ‘wetland delineation’ work, and why is it important?
Wetlands are very important to a healthy ecosystem. They reduce flooding and improve water quality. Wetlands are also a natural pollution filter, help to prevent shoreline erosion and provide wildlife habitat, to name a few things.

Wetlands are protected by federal and state regulations. That means MnDOT needs to obtain work permits and approvals if a highway project is going to impact a wetland. My job is to document all the wetlands on our right of way by using online mapping and field work. The field work involves finding the edge of the wetlands using the plants, soils and hydrology. A GPS line is walked and a CAD file created so designers can avoid and minimize any wetland impacts.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?
It depends on the day. On a nice day, being outside monitoring or maintaining a wetland mitigation site is probably my favorite. Our sites have both wetland areas and upland prairies. We do prescribed burns on our wetland mitigation sites, as fire is necessary for a healthy native prairie. Also, I love harvesting seeds, which is fun and economical, as native seeds are expensive.

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:



Juneteenth: A personal history

By Victoria Hopwood, MNIT@DOT

Photo: Victoria Hopwood

Victoria Hopwood Submitted photo

June 19 marked what would have been my mother’s 92 birthday.

My mother, who passed away March 14, 2017, was a fascinating, exciting, intelligent and loving woman who had a love for the written word. She was a voracious reader who loved history. Her love of history rubbed off on me as well as my siblings. My mother instilled in us a curiosity to revisit the past and store that information in our brains. She ensured that we knew our family history, local and state history, and national and world history. Little did I know that my acquisition of historical facts would serve me well growing up as the only Black child in a white elementary school, compounded with the fact that my family moved from the Rondo neighborhood to the all-white neighborhood of Desnoyer Park during the turbulent Civil Rights movement. While my mother armed us with historical facts, my father armed us with his first-hand account of history.

My father was born in Texas. He made his way to Minnesota playing baseball in the Negro Leagues. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs, arguably one of the best baseball teams of all time. My father left Texas as a 13-year-old and hit the road after the death of his own parents. The year was 1913. As Black Americans, we know Texas has an ugly and lengthy history of slavery and the mistreatment of Blacks (or anyone with brown skin) dating back prior to the Civil War. Surprisingly, most Americans do not know this history. When most Americans think about slavery, they think of the East Coast states or the Antebellum southern states.

The State of Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845 as a slave state. Prior to being admitted to the Union, Texas had a long and complicated history with Mexico, Spain, America, and the Indigenous groups. This history is far too complex for me to try and delineate in a brief writing, but please do your own research to see how all these factors played out in history.

At the time Texas was admitted to the Union, they had a slave population of approximately 30 percent. One in four Texas families owned slaves and slaveholdings were somewhere around, on average, 10 slaves per holding. How interesting that slaves who were made to fight alongside their masters/owners at the Battle of the Alamo were freed (those who survived the battle) by the Mexican Army. Most of these freed battle-scarred slaves headed straight for California, Mexico or northern territories.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and over 2,000 federal troops arrived at Galveston Island to take possession of the state and enforce the two-year-old Emancipation Proclamation. There, he proclaimed his “General Order No. 3” on the balcony of Ashton Villa.

June 19 is known in Black communities as “Juneteenth” or “Juneteenth Independence Day,” a holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement to the last group of slaves to be freed. It is estimated that Texas still held approximately 250,000 Blacks as slaves. This date, June 19, 1865, had to be given legal status in the State of Texas to protect Blacks as they matriculated or tried to find normalcy for those who stayed in the area.

My father was born just 35 years after this historical event. However, he and his parents felt the negative repercussions of Texas history for two more generations. Take a moment and reflect upon the history of this event. My family and I also reflect upon this moment on July 4. What does freedom mean to you?

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the history lessons!

(Editor’s note: a modified version of this piece originally ran in the June 2017 MnDOT Diversity Newsletter)

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