Sept. 30, 2015
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Commissioners go to northern Minnesota to talk about and see roles of transportation and forestry in state's economy

By Sue Roe

Commissioner Charlie Zelle and potlatch worker.

Commissioner Charlie Zelle (left) speaks with Jeff Duzan, electronic controls analyst with Potlach Lumber Mill in Bemidji, during a three-day tour of northern Minnesota by nine state agency leaders. Photo by Laurie Ryan

Commissioner Charlie Zelle was one of nine state agency commissioners who visited northern Minnesota cities in September to talk to business owners in an “Economy in Motion” tour. The three-day tour was led by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The tour specifically focused on the roles of transportation and forestry in the state's economic development. Dubbed the “Commissioners on Wheels,” the tour showcased the state’s multimodal transportation system from the perspective of business owners, stakeholders, tribal governments and transportation professionals.

It also helped promote the value and success of Gov. Dayton’s initiative called Minnesota Business First Stop. The program makes it easier for businesses to interact with state government.

Stops on the tour were Warroad, Bemidji, International Falls, Bena, Cohasset, Carlton and Duluth. The nine commissioners met with representatives of businesses, transportation networks, chambers of commerce, Indian reservations and local elected officials.

“The northern Minnesota tour helped us get more informed about transportation issues in that area,” said Zelle. “All the commissioners heard firsthand about the successes of forestry-related industries. We want to make it easier for those industries to do business, and access to transportation is one of the issues that comes into play in northern Minnesota.”

Other MnDOT staff participating in the tour include Craig Collison, District 2/Bemidji; Ed Fairbanks, Government Affairs; Bill Gardner, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations; Duane Hill, District 1/Duluth; Cassandra Isackson, Office of Aeronautics; and Laurie Ryan, Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations.


Office of Maintenance mourns loss of Dave Lennartson

Photo of Dave Lennartson.

Dave Lennartson, engineering specialist senior, died Sept. 11. Lennartson worked in the Office of Maintenance Building Services Section. Photo courtesy of Lennartson family

Dave Lennartson, engineering specialist senior, died Sept. 11 while in hospice care after a six-year battle with cancer. Lennartson worked for MnDOT for 38 years.   

He was a drafting technician in the Site Development Unit, working on rest areas and roadside projects for 14 years prior to moving to the Office of Maintenance - Building Services Section.  
“Dave was a bright spot in the office with his smile and great sense of humor. He was very detailed oriented in his work and was well liked and respected by all MnDOT CO and district personnel - as well as the many contractors he worked with across the state,” said Tom Oman, engineering specialist senior. “Dave was always willing to lend a hand in the office wherever it was needed, whether it was coming up with design ideas for other projects, helping out new employees or just day to day office functions.”

In the Building Services Unit, Lennartson designed and managed several of MnDOT’s truck stations and support building projects located all across the state.

“Dave was a details guy – whether it was his attention to the details of his projects, his golf game, or the birth details of each of his kids,” said Clayton Gore, engineering specialist senior. “He noticed everything around him and was a kind and calming presence in the office and will be greatly missed.”

“He was an upright, kind-hearted family man, always willing to go the extra mile for you,” said Glenn Heapy, engineer administrative.

Lennartson enjoyed traveling with his family. He liked sports, especially golf. Music was also a big part of his life, having played trumpet, piano and bass guitar.

Services were held Sept. 18 at Trinity Lutheran Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, with burial in West Bloomington.

Lennartson is survived by his wife, Judy, and sons, Jason (Anne), Michael (Sarah) and Adam (Jessica).

Operations Division launches Shared Services Program

By Rich Kemp

Photo of electronic highway sign.

With the ITS Shared Services process, districts can request support from the Regional Transportation Management Center in Roseville for design support on a variety of ITS applications. Photo by David Gonzalez

To support the districts and increase efficiencies, the Operations Division is developing Shared Service Programs for several traffic design areas. Marilyn Jordahl Larson is coordinating the program as part of a mobility assignment from the Office of Environmental Stewardship.

Larson is working with a steering committee consisting of Mike Barnes, Operations Division assistant commissioner; Sue Groth, state traffic engineer; Greg Coughlin, Metro District Operations and Maintenance director; and Amr Jabr, Operations Division assistant director. They are working with the district engineers, assistant district engineers and district traffic engineers.

“Operating budgets are very tight and will probably remain that way for the foreseeable future,” said Barnes. “Shared Services is a way to have the design functions performed by people who do it more frequently and are more proficient in their field, resulting in efficiencies in both time and resources. It’s not a silver bullet, but it will help to manage operating budgets.”

The first focus area was Intelligent Transportation Systems design. ITS encompasses a broad range of fiber optic wireless and wire line communication-based information and electronic technologies that improve safety and mobility. Some of the ITS projects include ramp metering, digital message signs, condition reporting systems and smart work zones.

ITS project design, conducted by the Regional Transportation Management Center staff in Roseville, was set up as a Shared Service to provide districts with ITS design resources.  

“The service is intended to help districts manage construction and operating budgets and to ensure efficiency and consistency in ITS system scoping and design,” said Larson. “As districts plan for managing projects in the STIP, Shared Services is another tool in the toolbox to assist with efficiency in delivering the program.”

The ITS Design Shared Services process was approved by the districts and Barnes, and is currently being implemented and available for fiscal year 2016. The Process Guidance Document and Request Form for ITS Design Shared Services are at: http://ihub/trafficeng/resources.html.

Shared Services is not intended to decrease MnDOT’s complement, but rather provide relief from the heavy design workload some districts experience. The next focus areas for the Shared Services Program will include design of signing, signals and lighting.

The Steering Committee is open to applying the Shared Services concept in other areas. Relay your Shared Service ideas to Marilyn Jordahl-Larson at 651-366-4666.


Campaign challenges motorists to stop texting while driving

Photo of Holly Kostrzewski and law enforcement officers presenting award to Esko High School.

From left: Tom Foldesi, Esko Police Department; Lt Jason Hanson, Minnesota State Patrol; Holly Kostrzewski, Northeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths coordinator; and Paul Wiertz, Minnesota AT&T president; present an It Can Wait challenge award to students from Esko High School. The Esko students won the challenge with Marshall High School to never text and drive. Photo courtesy of TZD

Distracted driving was the cause of more than 300 deaths on Minnesota roadways during the past five years, 57 of them occurring in 2014 alone.

To heighten public awareness and stop this deadly driving behavior, Minnesota’s Toward Zero Deaths program has joined with AT&T and the Minnesota Network of Employers for Traffic Safety to take the It Can Wait Challenge during the week of Oct. 5. The challenge is a pledge campaign teaching the dangers of distracted driving through the spirit of friendly competition.

Each MnDOT office is encouraged to participate and will compete with others in the agency to see how many pledges to “never text and drive” are received during the week of Oct. 5.

Each office will have a separate code. Participants will pledge by texting their code to AT&T, which will track the pledges. Employees can pledge once each day of the campaign. Because this is an awareness campaign, employees are encouraged to share their code with families and friends and invite them to take the pledge, too.

“The office that receives the most pledges to never text and drive wins,” said Kristine Hernandez, Statewide Toward Zero Deaths program coordinator.

“Distracted driving is a serious and growing problem. Finding ways to talk to with family and friends about the dangers in a positive way will help all motorists traveling in Minnesota,” she said. “And having a little friendly competition among the districts and other DOT offices is always fun for bragging rights.”

The pledge drive starts Monday, Oct. 5, at noon, and runs through noon on Friday, Oct. 9.  

“By pledging to never text and drive you may save a life—including your own,” said Commissioner Charlie Zelle.

More details about how to participate will be announced soon.


Protect yourself, protect others - get vaccinated at work

Flu vaccinations will be given throughout October at no cost to employees by showing their Minnesota Advantage Health Plan member ID card at the locations listed on the State Employee Group Insurance Program website.

Employees without a valid card or who don’t have health insurance through the State of Minnesota can receive the flu shot for $32, the nasal spray flu vaccine for $35 and a Tdap vaccine for $57 (cash only). Flu and Tdap vaccinations are also available at employees' primary care clinic and in-network convenient clinics.

Print and fill out the consent form (PDF) ahead of time for a shorter wait time. Consent forms will also be available the day of the shot.

For more information, visit the segip website.


Communications staff win AASHTO awards

By Rich Kemp

Adam Oie, Office of Communications, adjusts the backdrop that was used for the 2014 MnDOT State Fair Booth. Oie received an AASHTO award for graphic design for his work on the display. Photo by Rich Kemp

Adam Oie, Office of Communications, and District 7 received top honors in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Skills Contest.

The Skills Contest is conducted annually by the AASHTO Subcommittee on Transportation Communication to recognize the outstanding work of its public relations practitioners and facilitate an exchange of ideas.

“These entries were judged against communications teams from across the country,” said Kevin Gutknecht, Communications director. “I think this is a strong statement that our communicators are among the best in the nation.”

Oie received the top award in the Graphic Design – Display category. He designed the display for the 2014 MnDOT State Fair booth. The booth was divided into two main areas: a Get Connected display panel and a rest area for visitors to take a break and discuss transportation–related topics. The display panel gave visitors large visuals with snippets of information about Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure.

Check out Oie’s winning entry on the AASHTO website.

District 7 staff members meet with seniors in the Mankato Headquarters lobby prior to a bus tour of roundabouts. The roundabout mat, an exact replica of one of the roundabouts, was used to educate drivers on the multi-lane Hwy 22 Mankato roundabouts. It was designed and crafted by Giles Abbe, District 7 designer. Photo by Rebecca Arndt

District 7 won in the Issues and Crisis Management Communication – Public Involvement category. Rebecca Arndt, District 7 public affairs coordinator, led a team of city, county, law enforcement, business leaders and District 7 staff in developing and implementing a plan to make it easier for drivers in the Mankato area to maneuver through roundabouts. It was all in preparation for two multi-lane roundabouts that were built on Hwy 22 in Mankato.

Educating the driving community meant educating all employees first – not only at MnDOT, but at the city and county as well, according to Arndt. Everyone needed to be able to talk about the project and driving multi-lane roundabouts. The agencies used newsletters, displays and presentations to key groups, such as area law enforcement, to help get the word out.

“We really tried to reach everyone we could with a variety of techniques from brochures and videos to more creative walkable rugs, tours and hands-on driving experiences,” said Greg Ous, District 7 engineer.

The Hwy 22 marketing/education campaign helped drivers become comfortable driving though the roundabouts and won the AASHTO award for Arndt and District 7.

The program was featured in a Newsline article in September 2014.

Winning entries in all of the categories can be found at AASHTO 2015 skills contest page.

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