April 18, 2018
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The 2018 Upper Mississippi shipping season opens

Photo of motor vessel on Mississippi Rive.

The 2018 Upper Mississippi shipping season started a little later than average April 11 with motor vessel Michael Poindexter passing through Lock and Dam 2 in Hastings. The lingering cold weather delayed the thawing of Lake Pepin down river, which vessels need to clear to get to St. Paul. While the average start date is March 22, there have been later arrivals due to flooding. In 2001, historical flooding delayed the start of the season until May 11. Photo by Patrick Phenow

Government Affairs names Levi Brown as new tribal liaison

By Judy Jacobs

Photo of Levi Brown.

Levi Brown is MnDOT's new tribal liaison manager. Photo by Judy Jacobs

The Office of Government Affairs named Levi Brown to serve as tribal liaison manager. In Brown’s new role he will be working with Ed Fairbanks, MnDOT’s Tribal Liaison, transitioning the tribal relations workload. Fairbanks plans to retire at the end of the year.

“Levi’s vast array of experience working with tribal nations, including working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency and American Council roles, will prove valuable to MnDOT’s efforts to build a better working relationship with the tribes,” said Scott Peterson, assistant commissioner for Policy and Government Affairs. “In addition, Levi has been a regular contributor to the MnDOT Tribal State Relations training program since its inception in 2012.”

Brown is a graduate from Minnesota State Mankato with a focus on political science and ethnic studies. His professional development goal is to obtain a law degree within the next five years.

He worked for several years at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Legal Department and Tribal Court. He began full-time employment as environmental land director for Leech Lake and served in that capacity for 12 years prior to joining MnDOT.

Photo of Levi Brown.

Levi Brown presenting to nearly 100 attendees at a recent Tribal Relations Training program. Since its inception in 2012, more than 2,000 state agency employees have attended the training. Photo by Judy Jacobs

Brown also served for four years as Region 5 tribal representative on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Tribal Operation Committee. In that capacity he represented 35 tribes from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on a national level.

Brown is a citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and a lifelong resident of the Leech Lake Indian reservation. He is active in his community and often represents the tribe with rights of way, permits, tribal lands and tribal sovereignty issues.

“I understand that MnDOT’s mission is much broader than plowing snow and building roads,” said Brown. “I’m really excited to be an integral part of MnDOT’s tribal relations team and build on the strong foundation that Ed Fairbanks and Linda Aitken established.”

He has two sons, Gaven and Jaxon, and one daughter, Winnie.

Brown will work out of his office in Cass Lake. He can be reached at or by cell phone at 651-236-7048.

New MnDOT office to focus on connected and automated vehicles

By Rich Kemp

Photo of Jay Hietpas.

Jay Hietpas, state traffic engineer, will lead a new MnDOT office that will focus on connected and automated vehicles. Photo by Joel Wenz

Over the past several years, the advancement of Connected and Automated Vehicles, or CAV, has rapidly advanced around the country.  Although MnDOT has been actively involved for years, Gov. Mark Dayton's recent Executive Order on CAV will significantly advance these initiatives in Minnesota.

MnDOT is creating a new office that will focus primarily on advancing CAV policy, research and implementation. This office is needed to prepare Minnesota, engage the agencies stakeholders and meet the obligations of the Governor’s Executive Order. MnDOT is currently developing a CAV strategic plan. 

Jay Hietpas will be leading this new office, which is yet to be named. Hietpas has been the state traffic engineer since 2016. In addition to CAV, this new office will include ITS staff from CO Traffic and will also be actively involved in advancing Transportation System Management and Operations.

“This is an exciting time in transportation. CAV has the potential to revolutionize traffic safety and operations,” said Jody Martinson, assistant commissioner of the Operations Division. “Jay is incredibly passionate and an innovative leader. We are fortunate to have someone so committed and dedicated to advance this important effort not only for MnDOT, but the entire state of Minnesota as well.”

Ray Starr, who has been the assistant state traffic engineer in the Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology, will take over as the acting state traffic engineer.


Kristine Elwood named new deputy State Aid engineer

Photo of Kristine Elwood.

Kristine Elwood is the new deputy State Aid engineer. Photo by Rich Kemp

MnDOT has selected Kristine Elwood as the new deputy State Aid engineer.

Elwood comes to MnDOT from Dakota County, where she was the transit and multimodal programs manager for the last four years. She brings more than 23 years of county and city experience to State Aid office.

In her time with Dakota County and the city of Minneapolis, she held positions as transit engineer, transportation program manager, project manager and project engineer.

“We are very excited to be adding Kristine to our team,” said Mitch Rasmussen, assistant commissioner for State Aid. “Her customer-first style will further our efforts to build solid relationships with our internal and external partners.”

Elwood started April 9 and is located in the State Aid Division office on the 4th floor of CO.

She can be reached at 651-366-3804 or


Spring cleanup program encourages employees to reduce document storage

By Rich Kemp

Photo of members of the Office of Environmental Stewardship.

The Office of Environmental Stewardship is the current holder of the "Golden Hard Drive" for reducing the most email during this year's email reduction initiative. In attendance for the presentation were (front row, from left) Lynn Clarkowski, Renee Barnes and Carol Zoff (back row from left) Tina Markeson, Mark Vogel, Harold Bottolfson, Dave Hanson and Lucas Bistodeau. Photo by Rich Kemp

MnDOT is asking employees to clean up their office share drives during the month of May. As part of the program, employees are encouraged to look at the new retention schedule and see what records are needed. If they aren’t needed, they can be deleted.

The office or district that reduces their shared drive storage by the highest percentage will win the MnDOT Golden Hard Drive. The first data storage clean-up week was held in spring 2016.

Last year the effort was for one week and the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations led the way by reducing its shared drive by 17.28 percent.

“Excessive amounts of ROT in MnDOT electronic files continues to be an issue, which is why we’ve set aside the entire month of May to combat the problem,” said Jennifer W. Witt, management analyst supervisor in the Office of Chief Counsel. “ROT is information that is redundant, obsolete or trivial. We want MnDOT to look at its electronic information and delete anything that we don’t need to keep. As always, we use the retention schedule to see how long we need to store files, based on their content.”

Problems created by excess files are increased storage and backup costs, increased search time and time wasted wading through outdated and superseded information, and (in legal hold situations) thousands of dollars of discovery costs.

“By paying attention to our information, we know what we have and we show that we are good stewards of our business information,” said Witt.

Employees will be asked to dedicate four hours during May to review their office’s shared drive and delete outdated ROT electronic files that have reached the end of their retention period.

Fill out a records destruction report for all records that are deleted. 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. The district or office with highest percentage in decrease to their email storage footprint will be announced during the first full week in June.

Previous Golden Hard Drive winners were:

  • Office of Communications - Spring 2016
  • Office of Civil Rights - Fall 2016
  • Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicles - Spring 2017
  • Office of Environmental Stewardship - Fall 2017

What's new on the web

The new scenic byways map allows visitors to select a logo to find more information on the Explore Minnesota website.

Learn more about scenic byways on newly revised website

Experience what Minnesota scenic byways have to offer by exploring the Scenic Byways map.

The new format allows visitors to select a scenic byway logo and access more information about it on the Explore Minnesota website.
New library guide for publication alerts in transportation

The periodicals routing service will have a few changes in the coming months. One change will be encouraging employees to sign up for direct notification of periodicals that are provided only in electronic format, such as AASHTO’s daily and weekly e-newsletters and ASCE journals.

A new library guide is available to assist with signing up for free e-mail alerts of various publications:


Environmental efforts result in reduced costs, increased quality of life

By Lynn Clarkowski, Office of Environmental Stewardship director

Photo of Lynn Clarkowski.

Lynn Clarkowski, Office of Environmental Stewardship director, encourages employees to read the Earth Week Notemailers to learn more about steps to take that will further MnDOT's stewardship and sustainability. Photo by Rich Kemp

As people around the world celebrate Earth Week this week, and Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, I’d like to share with you some of the ways that MnDOT works to maximize the health of the environment.

MnDOT is committed in its efforts to maintain, improve and minimize impacts to our state’s resources on an ongoing basis.

Energy efficiency: Since 2011, MnDOT has aggressively worked at reducing energy use in MnDOT buildings across the state. Building operators monitor facility operational trends and can adjust statewide systems remotely. We have implemented new systems, such as door sensors and demand-based temperature control, to achieve energy efficiencies. New MnDOT facilities are built with efficient boilers, furnaces, heaters and LED lighting with occupancy sensors and thermal installations. In 2017, these efforts resulted in energy savings of $400,000.

In addition, employees are replacing outdated equipment with energy-efficient alternatives, such as upgrading shop and pole lights to light-emitting diodes, or LED, fixtures. A total of almost 28,000, or 87 percent, of roadway lights have been replaced with LED lighting.

Improved water quality and reduced chlorides: MnDOT has taken a leadership role in finding ways to meet environmental demands and the public’s need for safe winter driving. During the past 15 years, MnDOT has worked with its partners to develop a winter tool to aid in the most advantageous use of salt and other winter chemicals. The Maintenance Decision Support System, or MDSS, incorporates real-time weather information and road conditions to optimize salt applications during winter storms.               
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 40 percent of monitored Minnesota lakes and streams are impaired. 

“MnDOT has ongoing efforts to ensure that we’re not putting down more salt than is needed,” according to Barb Loida, Metro District’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) engineer. “Crews are using alternatives to reduce chloride in lakes and streams.”

“MnDOT works to ensure that proper erosion control measures are being taken statewide so that no sediment-laden water is being released into the surface and ground water,” said Tara Carson, Statewide MS4 permits coordinator, Office of Environmental Stewardship, who works closely with Loida.

Recycled pavement and base materials: Terry Beaudry, pavement engineer, Office of Materials, notes that MnDOT allows for the use of recycled asphalt pavement and recycled concrete aggregate in pavements, as long as these recycled products meet an engineering need.

“In most cases, recycled products perform as well as virgin materials. MnDOT specifications are very permissive in allowing for the substitution of RAP and RCA in many pavement structures,” he said.

The pavement structures range from using 30 percent recycled materials in new bituminous to 100 percent recycled materials in new base and reclamation. This has saved the agency millions of dollars, as well as natural resources, truck traffic and greenhouse gas emissions, without compromising on pavement performance.

Photo of a snow fence.

Structural snow fences are bring used in MnDOT's blowing snow control efforts in areas that are not conducive to tree or shrub plantings. These fences are typically constructed of wood, metal or plastic. Due to material and labor costs, this type of snow fence is left standing year-round and requires an easement or an agreement with the landowner. Photo courtesy of the Office of Environmental Stewardship

Employees continuously work to minimize the effects to our natural resources. The Office of Environmental Stewardship and MnDOT’s district staff strive to reduce sediment and other pollutants in highway run-off, implement best practices with prescribed burns to manage native roadside vegetation, manage facility waste from truck stations to ensure it’s being disposed of properly, contain lead paint on bridge refurbishing, install solar-powered traffic devices, control blowing and drifting snow with methods such as living snow fence and standing corn rows, and much, much more on a daily basis.

We encourage you to try carpooling, using transit, or riding a bike to work, plant low-maintenance trees and other vegetation in your yards, try using compost as a natural fertilizer, reduce the use of disposable coffee cups, food containers and silverware, fill up that reusable bottle and use “green driving” practices, like reducing vehicle speed or minimizing aggressive driving.

If we continue to take our earth for granted, and do not take immediate action to protect our resources, it results in significant consequences, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If we all take some small actions, we can collectively make a large and positive impact on maintaining a clean and healthy earth and workplace. 

Thank you for all you do to help protect our environment.
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