July 21, 2021
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Making sure things are on the level

Photo: Three MnDOT staff members and a consultant review and evaluate a crosswalk

MnDOT employees are travelling across the state this summer doing ADA field walks, checking the intersections like this one near Cedar Lake Road and Hwy 169 in St. Louis Park, on the west side of the Twin Cities metro area. From left are Victor Vasas, project manager and design engineer; Joe Zilka, assistant ADA program engineer (holding a level measuring tool used to check grades at crossings); Miranda Simon, consultant support with Alliant Engineering; and Todd Grugel, ADA program engineer. The group planned to spend several hours on the site, examining each crosswalk area. Learn more about MnDOT’s ADA accessibility work with this new video. Photo by Joseph Palmersheim



Hwy 53 International Falls urban reconstruction addresses aging infrastructure

By Margie Nelson, District 1 Public Affairs

Photo: a construction site

Hwy 53 section south of Industrial Avenue newly reopened to local traffic in International Falls. Photo by Kevin Bissonette

Big changes are happening on Hwy 53 in International Falls.

A $17.3 million urban reconstruction project over the last two years is addressing the aging infrastructure of the main business corridor in the area with a complete streets approach.

Originally looked at as a mill and overlay, input from the city of International Falls and the public transformed the project into a reconstruction. The work will result in a smoother pavement surface, an improved drainage/storm sewer system, ADA-compliant pedestrian accessibility, a multi-use trail, new state-of-the-art signal systems, LED lighting system and other streetscape features.

Open houses and public comment periods started in 2017 to develop the layout and new city street scape. Some areas had a road diet to help calm traffic. Additional amenities include trees, benches and a new shared use trail running through town.

One of the challenges for the area has been maintaining access for businesses.

“We’ve had great support from the city of International Falls and the International Falls Area Chamber of Commerce,” said Alex Peritz, project manager. “They’ve been partners through the whole process, including supporting our communication efforts to businesses and residents in the work zone.”

Construction during the pandemic made for a unique circumstance in this area. The Canadian border closed in March 2020, and tourist travel across the border is prohibited. As one of the major crossings in the area, there was less traffic than anticipated during both years of construction seasons.

Work will wrap up in October 2021, with landscaping and streetscaping to be completed in 2022. Learn more about the project here.



New ‘Let’s Move Safely Together’ pedestrian safety campaign starts

By Anne Meyer

Decorative image

Reducing fatalities among people walking and improving safety for all travelers is the focus of a new statewide pedestrian safety campaign that kicked off in early July and runs through October.

The theme for the campaign is “Let’s Move Safely Together.” It highlights safety tips that remind people to use extra caution when driving and walking. This safety campaign will be featured on MnDOT’s social media channels and through television, newspaper, digital and radio ads.

Twenty-five people have died while walking on Minnesota roads this year, and more than 230 people lost their lives in vehicle crashes.

“One life lost on our roadways is too many. When we work as a team and watch out for each other, we can save lives and make progress Toward Zero Deaths,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “That means drivers need to slow down and stop for people crossing the road. When you’re walking, look all ways before crossing and stay alert because people driving may not see you.”

Work on the campaign began more than two years ago and the release was delayed one year due to challenges with the pandemic. The Office of Active Transportation led the project, which also included pedestrian safety partners like Toward Zero Deaths, Department of Public Safety, Minnesota Safety Council and other community groups throughout the process to help shape the main messages of the campaign.

“MnDOT is never alone when it comes to pedestrian safety, and by teaming up with key stakeholders, we knew we could spread these important messages even farther,” said Michelle Pooler, OTAT. “Their help was so valuable during the development of this campaign.”

Watch for the campaign and see a list of safety tips for all travelers on the Pedestrian Safety Education website.



COVID-19 policies, guidance updated as MnDOT prepares to reopen offices

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: empty cubicles in Central Office

MnDOT recently rolled out updated policies, guidance documents and tips to adapt to a new normal when many teleworkers begin a phased return to their former work locations this month.
Updates include:

  • Face Covering Policy, which has been revised to match the requirements set by Minnesota Management & Budget’s statewide policy. Key updates include:
    • Employees who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear a face covering in the workplace (but may continue to do so if they choose). “Fully vaccinated” is defined in the policy.
    • All employees who are not yet fully vaccinated must continue to wear face coverings.
    • “Social distancing” is also defined and continues to be a requirement.
    • The supplemental Face Covering Guidance has also been updated.
  • In-Person Meeting Protocol. Key updates include:
    • Capacity limits are still in effect but are no longer capped at 10. Instead, meeting room capacity is based on room size to allow for appropriate social distancing.
    • Statewide Conference Room Occupancy Limits are now available.
    • Provisions for outdoor meetings have been added.
    • Approval for in-person meetings is now only required for meetings that include non-MnDOT employees. Meetings that include only MnDOT employees do not need prior approval but are still required to follow all other meeting protocols.
  • Vehicle Occupancy Guidance rules have been updated. Key updates include:
    • There are no remaining restrictions on vehicle occupancy for fully vaccinated employees.
    • Additional guidelines are provided for those who are not fully vaccinated.
    • Please note: MnDOT’s labor partners were consulted on this topic and their feedback was incorporated.
  • Return to the Office Guide provides employees with extensive information about safety protocols, building access, equipment return, hybrid meeting protocols and more.

Some of these precautions will remain in place for now and others will change. Agency leaders anticipate this will continue to evolve over the next few months.

“We’d like to thank each one of you for pulling together in support of MnDOT’s work and mission during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nancy Daubenberger, deputy commissioner and chief engineer. “You have continued to show resilience, flexibility, creativity, and grit in getting your work done and supporting colleagues despite evolving and challenging conditions. As you know, employees who have been teleworking will begin a phased return to offices and work locations in July and they will rejoin MnDOT employees who have continued to report to our various worksites. We have all learned from this experience – and as we look to the future, we have a better understanding of how flexible and innovative our agency can be.”

A key part of the agency’s office reopening plan is to continue to offer a flexible work option to staff whose job allows them to do so, according to Karin van Dyck, Human Resources director.

  • Individuals who wish to continue to regularly telework (whether all of the time or part of the time) must submit a new telework agreement by Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. These employees will need to submit a new Telework Acknowledgement and Schedule form after discussing telework arrangements with their supervisor. This online form will automatically route to supervisors for approval, and then to CO Labor Relations (and forwarded to district HR offices).
    • Employees will receive an email from Smartsheet (an external email source) when the form is approved.
    • Employees who need to update their form will need to start a new form and route it for approval.
    • Supervisors who have denied or partially denied a telework request will need to complete and submit a Special Considerations form.
  • Learn how to get more out of Microsoft Teams. Teams will continue to play an important role in how MnDOT collaborates in a hybrid work environment. Learn more about Teams with the live or recorded trainings available on MNIT’s Learning Pathways.
  • Check out a new learning path in LinkedIn Learning. There is a new collection of courses on “Engaging your Virtual or Hybrid Team” for employees participating in the LinkedIn Learning program. Contact Linda Hinrichs, Workforce Development manager, to learn more about participating in LinkedIn Learning.
  • Return of Equipment and Supplies. Employees should bring any additional telework equipment and supplies when returning on-site.
    • These employees should communicate with their supervisor on any need for assistance when returning equipment and supplies on-site.
    • Supervisors must track returned equipment on the Equipment Log for Supervisors that was created when their employees began teleworking.
  • Automated Health Screening Changes. For each of the additional screening questions that are conducted by the supervisor or HR related to exposure, MMB has added a question asking whether the employee has been fully vaccinated. Now, fully vaccinated employees will not be screened out if they answered “yes” to the exposure questions because they are not required to quarantine if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test. This is based on CDC guidance.



Wanted: Volunteers to staff MnDOT’s State Fair booth, Aug. 26-Sept. 6

Photo: the plow known as Plowy McPlowface

Plowy McPlowFace, a Metro District snowplow, will be the featured attraction at MnDOTís State Fair exhibit this year from Aug. 26 through Labor Day. The snowplow is one of eight plows statewide (one per district) that received a name chosen by the public during a contest this past winter. Photo courtesy of Metro District

It’s on! The 2021 Great Minnesota “Get-Back Together” is just a few weeks away after taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As in years past, MnDOT will again have a presence at the State Fair, which runs Aug. 26 through Labor Day, with some notable changes, said Jake Loesch, Communications and Public Engagement director.

“For the first time in 15 years, MnDOT’s booth will be outdoors. This new space allows us to go big - literally. We’ll be showcasing a snowplow, one of our historically popular attractions that is both attention-grabbing and a great way to highlight winter operations and safety,” he said.

The Office of Communications and Public Engagement is seeking employees to help engage with fairgoers, talk about transportation and hand out state highway maps.

“We typically need more than 100 employees to staff the booth throughout the course of the 12-day fair, people who are especially friendly and good listeners,” Loesch said. “It’s a rewarding experience to meet a variety of visitors from all over the Midwest. I highly recommend this opportunity.”

Each volunteer shift is four hours long (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 1 to 5 p.m.; 5 to 9 p.m.). Staff will receive training, as well as a MnDOT t-shirt and ticket into the fairgrounds. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the fair and parking costs.

Karen Neinstadt, librarian, is a long-time volunteer at MnDOT’s State Fair exhibit. She comes by her love of the fair naturally, having grown up just south of the fairgrounds. Her family parked cars in their front yard, charging $1.50 per day in the early 1980s. At night, they had VIP seats to the fireworks display from their front steps.

“I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” she said.

Currently, Neinstadt takes vacation time to work as a paid State Fair Ambassador. Most mornings during the fair she is at one of the gates scanning electronic tickets, escorting people through the gates or helping individuals find their gates and buses. When she learned years ago that she could also work at the MnDOT booth, she was excited to be able to extend her “work” day at the fair.

“In the MnDOT booth, I greet visitors, assist with questions and connect people with information. It’s almost like an extension of my job with the library. It also allows me to meet other MnDOT employees from other districts and make connections that have come in handy in my library work…I definitely encourage folks to sign up to help with the MnDOT booth,” she said.

If you are interested in volunteering, get you supervisor’s approval first and then fill out this form (access code: MNStateFair21) to select a time slot. Slots fill up quickly and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Employees are limited to signing up for one shift each but may put their name on a list for additional shifts if they become available.

MnDOT’s spot is located on the east end of the fairgrounds on Cosgrove Street, directly across from the Education Building.

More information is available at the Working at the Fair iHUB site.



Aero offices land at new Central Office location

By J.P. Gillach

Photo: man sitting as a desk

Kevin Carlson, planning program coordinator, works in the new Aeronautics Office space in the first floor of the Transportation Building on the Capitol mall. Photo by Rich Kemp.

MnDOT’s Aeronautics office recently moved “up the hill” in St. Paul, from its former free-standing office on Plato Boulevard to the first floor of the Transportation Building on the Capitol mall.

The Aeronautics office was in its prior location for 28 years, but the former bank building it was based in needed substantial investment to maintain.

“Because we’re a small office and we’re fully funded out of the State Airports Fund, it’s been really challenging for us to maintain the Plato Boulevard building,” said Cassandra Isackson, Aeronautics director. “It’s an old building and it needs lots of work done to it.”

Aeronautics worked with the Department of Administration on an engineering and space assessment to help guide the process.

“We looked at the condition of the building, but also looked at how Aeronautics could reduce its footprint in the building and potentially bring on another tenant so we could afford the space,” Isackson said. “The goal was to understand the cost of staying, and compare that to us moving and being a tenant somewhere else. It turned out that one of the places that was a possibility was the Central Office, and there was room for us.”

While the move will save costs, it is also an opportunity to create a modern workspace that reflects the current needs of Aeronautics employees and the work they do.

“We had to figure out early in the process what our workspace should look like after COVID-19,” Isackson said. “We gave a lot of thought to who’s going to telework, who’s not going to telework and how much are they going to telework.”

Aeronautics’ different work groups also participated in planning the new office space.

The new office includes “hoteling” workstations available on a first-come, first-served basis for telecommuting employees. Hoteling spaces are both enclosed and in standard cubicles. Every workstation has adjustable-height desk tops, and many include lockers and cabinets to store items while employees are “hoteling” in the new office. Four work stations were custom-designed to accommodate large airport construction layouts. There is also an open collaboration area that includes a dinette, and other features.

The new space might be the shape of things to come.

“The space concepts we employed in the new Aeronautics and MNIT@DOT spaces in the Transportation Building,  including increased amount and type of collaboration and hoteling spaces, are consistent with post-pandemic space recommendations from the Department of Administration and MMB, as well as MnDOT’s recently created space guidelines and standards,” said Stephen Terhaar, Central Office Facility director. “These types of spaces will become the norm across the agency and the entire enterprise in the future.”

The new space is located at 395 John Ireland Blvd., Suite 129.



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:

View full calendar



On the Job: Yashica Taylor issues credentials for commercial, passenger vehicles

By Rich Kemp

Photo: Yashica Taylor

Yashica Taylor. Photo by Rich Kemp

Yashica Taylor works in the Credentials Unit of the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations. She started at MnDOT in 2017.

What has been your career path?
Before coming to MnDOT, I worked in human services, was an advocate for women and did administrative work for a corporate office. I started with MnDOT as a Seeds student working as a customer service specialist in 2017. I received a permanent position June 2018 and was promoted to a credentials technician in September 2019.

What do you do in your job?
I work customer service in the Credentials unit of OFCVO. I work with carriers and issue credentials for Commercial/Passenger Vehicle Operations in Minnesota.

What is your favorite part about your job?
It makes me happy knowing that I fulfilled my obligation to carriers and seeing the smiles on their faces when they leave the office happy and satisfied!

What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is when applications are incomplete and you have to send them back to be completed. It is also frustrating when customers want me to hurry up, but they don’t have all of the proper paperwork.

What kind of changes have you seen in your job?
We are working on a new system. MnDOT uses the system to keep information up to date. It gives customers access to pay online versus having to come into the MnDOT office, which is more convenient for them.

Has your job changed a lot because of COVID-19?

Yes, lots of changes occurred. Carriers couldn’t come into the office, so we had to do everything online, over the phone or through the mail. It is easier to work with someone when you are face to face. I have worked in the office during COVID. But working in the office just made me appreciate my job and my life better. I can’t wait though until we can open our office and work with carriers in person.

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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