June 22, 2016
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Interstate 694 project will improve mobility, safety for North Central Twin Cities travelers

By R. Kent Barnard, Metro District communications and engagement

Photo of construction on Interstate 694.

Crews work on the westbound lanes of Interstate 694 from Rice Street in Little Canada to Lexington Avenue in Arden Hills. The project will add third general purpose lane in each direction. Photo by R. Kent Barnard

Construction of a third general purpose lane in each direction of Interstate 694 is underway in the cities of Arden Hills, Shoreview, Little Canada and Vadnais Heights. The $42 million project, funded by the state’s Corridors of Commerce program, stretches from Rice Street in Little Canada to Lexington Avenue in Arden Hills. Construction shifted into high gear in early April following earlier work to prepare the nearly four-mile long corridor.

Preliminary work to clear trees and brush along the interstate began in mid-February. Construction crews needed to cut and pile vegetation during the winter months to avoid disturbing long-eared bats. Tree removal during the winter prevents later habitat issues for the bats, which are plagued by white-nose syndrome.

Photo of construction on Interstate 694.

The two lanes of the westbound Interstate 694 are divided around the construction zone to separate traffic from the construction activity. Photo by Rich Kemp

This year’s work will rebuild the westbound lanes. During construction, MnDOT is keeping two lanes of traffic open in each direction with temporary lanes around the construction zone to separate traffic from the construction activity. The two lanes of the westbound interstate are separated by a concrete median barrier, which requires westbound I-694 motorists to choose a lane at the beginning of the work zone. Traffic from northbound I-35E to westbound I-694 is diverted into the outside ramp access lanes only.

Drivers in the left through lane are unable to exit the interstate between Rice Street and Lexington Avenue. Traffic in the right ramp access lane can exit the freeway as usual. Eastbound traffic lanes are not separated by barrier until next year.

Next year’s work will rebuild the eastbound lanes with the same traffic restrictions as the westbound lanes this year.

Along with building a third lane in each direction, the project includes reconstruction of the interstate ramps at Lexington Avenue, Victoria Street and Rice Street. The project also will open the right lane of the bridge from northbound I-35E to westbound I-694 and convert the right lane into an exit-only lane to Rice Street. An added benefit of the project will be improved storm water drainage throughout the corridor.

When complete in November 2017, the new lanes will improve driver safety and accessibility, increase capacity to lessen congestion and provide smoother road surfaces. The new roadway will also enhance the movement of freight and support economic development.

A series of four videos was created to detail the project and to explain and demonstrate how to navigate the construction zone. The videos and additional information about the project can be found at An email alert list helps keep motorists up to date on the project.

Commissioner, deputies discuss current issues with employees

By Judy Jacobs

Photo of Charlie Zelle and Sue Mulvihill.

Commissioner Charlie Zelle and Sue Mulvihill, deputy commissioner and chief engineer, answered questions during a Meet and Greet with employees June 9. Photo by David Gonzalez

Commissioner Charlie Zelle and deputy commissioners held a Meet and Greet June 9 to update employees on current issues and provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions of senior leadership. The discussion was moderated by Sue Mulvihill, deputy commissioner and chief engineer. 

“Transportation impacts every person in this state every day,” Mulvihill said. “Thank you for all you do to keep us moving.”

Zelle also thanked employees for the great work they are doing.  He noted that the work MnDOT does is a great source of pride. He pointed out that MnDOT is not just roads and bridges—it’s about all modes—but it is mostly about people and that WIG 2.0 is designed to bring employees closer to their customers.

“Advancing equity is not just the right thing to do,” Zelle said. “It’s our future and the future or our agency and of our state.”

Photo of Tracy Hatch.

Tracy Hatch, deputy commissioner, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, discussed the development of WIG 2.0 during a Meet and Greet with employees June 9. Photo by David Gonzalez

Tracy Hatch, deputy commissioner, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, announced that WIG 2.0 Development Assignment 4 work would begin June 20.  Hatch explained that Assignment 4 was a result of the feedback from the previous assignments that showed MnDOT needed to look deeper into a few specific customer groups and focus on strengthening an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce.

Hatch encouraged employees to work as a team, provide insights to each of the questions in Assignment 4 and work with local coaches. For a list of the 4DX Coaches visit the iHUB site.

“In the WIG 2.0 framework, we are confident that together the two priorities of “Improving Intentional Customer Engagement” and “Advancing Equity” will move us toward achieving our Wildly Important Goal of Earning Customer Trust,” Hatch said.  “Ultimately, results will roll up through focus areas and priorities, up to the overall WIG of Earning Customer Trust.” 

Eric Davis, chief of staff, addressed the question, Why Advancing Equity by explaining that MnDOT contributes directly to the overall health, well-being and quality of life in Minnesota. However, many people are falling further behind, typically populations of color, women and people with disabilities. 

“Our future prosperity depends on our ability to close those gaps,” Davis said. “We must first acknowledge where we have created and perpetuate conditions for inequities and work proactively to create and sustain conditions for equity.”           

Employees unable to attend the presentation can view the discussion at

MnDOT tests traffic signal sensor for bicycles

By Mike Dougherty, District 6 public affairs coodinator

Photo of a bicycle sensor on a stop light.

The radar bicycle sensor detects when a bicycle is waiting and triggers a green light for through passage or a green left turn arrow. Photo by Nancy Klema

MnDOT is conducting a pilot study in Northfield to determine the effectiveness of a traffic signal sensor for bicycles.

The radar bicycle sensor is designed to detect when a bicycle is waiting on Hwy 19 or Second Street at Hwy 3 in Northfield. It will trigger a green light for through passage or a green left turn arrow.

MnDOT is working with a company that is providing the radar bicycle sensor being used at Hwy 19 and Hwy 3, to ensure that bicycles trigger the signal. MnDOT’s study will provide information to agencies and communities on equipment that can be used effectively for bicycle traffic. The sensor is the first such bicycle dedicated system used with a MnDOT traffic signal.

The signal to cross Hwy 3 or turn onto it does not change until a vehicle approaches from Hwy 19 or Second Street. At that time, traffic is stopped on Hwy 3 and the side approaches are provided green lights for crossing or turning. Loops in the pavement detect vehicles to trigger the signal, but not all bicycles were detected. MnDOT is analyzing whether the radar detection system will trigger green lights more consistently for bicycles, which provides safe crossing and improved traffic flow.

Melissa Barnes, state bicycle and pedestrian safety traffic engineer, said that so far, reliability has been in the high 80 to low 90 percent range.

Photo of a bicycle marking on the road.

The city of Northfield put this marking on the highway lane to provide guidance to bicyclists on where to position themselves in the lane to activate the signal. Photo by Nancy Klema

The intersection of Hwy 19/Second Street and Hwy 3 in Northfield is a busy point in the Rice County city that provides one link between the city’s two colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf, and the downtown and the business community on the west side of the Cannon River.

The radar sensor is positioned on the signal arms to detect when a bicycle is waiting on Hwy 19 or Second Street and then triggers the signal time for a bicycle or multiple bicycles to cross or turn onto Hwy 3. The city of Northfield painted a bicycle symbol in the left turn lane to provide guidance to bicyclists on where to position in the lane to activate the signal and will be adding the symbol to the through lane.

“Part of MnDOT's objective is to test this system to determine if we can recommend this product to other Minnesota agencies that are looking for bike detection at a traffic signal,” said Jerry Kotzenmacher, MnDOT Traffic Systems. “To give this recommendation, MnDOT must test this system for a duration of time. Users must also understand how a traffic signal works to be able to give feedback to MnDOT.”

MnDOT will use their input on this current project to learn more. BikeNorthfield, a community group working with MnDOT, is helping educate the community about how the signal detection is used.

“The Northfield bicycle community has been helpful and good partners as we’ve worked on improving our roadways for bicycles,” said Nancy Klema, MnDOT District 6 traffic operations engineer. “The knowledge and experience we gain through our work with them has helped us provide information and lessons learned to others in the state.”

Barnes said the sensor will also detect motorcycles.

“We hope to use the sensors wherever we identify a need,” Barnes said.

Celebrate bees, bats, butterflies and other pollinators during National Pollinatorís Week

By Judy Jacobs

Photo of a monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterflies help pollinate vegetation on Interstate 35 as they migrate along the interstate between Minnesota and Mexico. Photo courtesy of the Office of Environmental Stewardship

Pollinator populations are on the decline.  Ten years ago the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the designation of a week in June to address this urgent issue.  Pollinator week has grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and all other pollinator species. This year’s National Pollinator’s Week is being held June 20-26. 
“The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort,” said Tina Markeson, Roadside Vegetation Management Unit supervisor.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these hard-working organisms help pollinate more than 75 percent of flowering plants and nearly 75 percent of crops.

“We may not notice the hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies that carry pollen from one plant to another,” Markeson said. “Yet, without them, wildlife would have fewer berries and seeds  and we would miss many fruits, vegetables, nuts, blueberries, squash and almonds . . . not to mention chocolate and coffee…all of which depend on pollinators.”

This year, to help increase education and bring awareness to the issue of pollinator declines, six state departments of transportations and the Federal Highway Administration joined forces to collaborate and enhance pollinator habitat along the I-35 corridor. These government officials signed a memorandum of understanding during the AASHTO Board of Directors meeting in late May.  In an effort to develop a unified branding for I-35, this corridor was designated the Monarch Highway.

The I-35 Corridor is dubbed the Monarch Highway because of the monarch’s 3,000 mile migration between Mexico and Minnesota annually. The focus of this program is to create, enhance and protect native vegetation that pollinators thrive on in areas that are appropriate

During the last 20 years, the monarch population decreased by 90 percent mainly due to the loss of the milkweed plant that serves as a food source and breeding ground. Without any action to preserve them, these pollinators will cease to exist.
“While much remains to be done to combat a multitude of contributing factors to pollinator declines, such as disappearing pollinator habitat and the use of pesticides, National Pollinator Week is a chance to reflect and celebrate the achievements that have been done this year,” Markeson said.  “It helps raise awareness of the important role pollinators play in our daily lives.”


New webcasting resource allows agency to stream live video

By Rich Kemp

Photo of Clay Ebeling, Gary Andrist and Joel Wenz.

Clay Ebeling, video producer; and Gary Andrist, Video Services team leader; look on as Joel Wenz, video producer; sets up the Ustream video feed for the Meet and Greet June 9. They were able to stream the video live throughout the state. Photo by Rich Kemp

To accommodate the increased demand of webcast requests, MnDOT purchased a robust, versatile and cost-effective web streaming package. Ustream allows the Video Services Group to stream live video over the internet for internal and external customers.  An internal channel is used for internal communications while an external channel is used for public communications. 

“Not only can we stream live programming, we can also archive our pre-recorded video programs and the audience can watch the videos at their convenience,” said Gary Andrist, Video Services team leader.

This streaming service fills the need for web streaming\broadcasting for media events, webinars, training events, and internal and external outreach opportunities anywhere in the state. Customers receive a dependable and high quality connection and can simply use their computer to receive instant communication. 

“Ustream allows us to broadcast to a larger audience,” said Joel Wenz, video producer. “It doesn’t replace Microsoft Lync, which is used for videoconferencing with smaller groups.”

As MnDOT uses this new technology, the up-front costs to purchase the package will prove its worth.

“In fact, if MnDOT uses streaming for just three events this year, the purchase will be justified,” said Carol Hennekens, Workforce Development supervisor.  

There are two channels set up for Ustream broadcasts:

As you plan your next event, consider using streaming as the technology to get your message out.  To make a request, click on the IT Service icon on your desktop and click on Video and Audio Visual Services.

Enrollment for Leadership Development Program opens June 27

Employees’ motivation and willingness to improve their competencies allows MnDOT to remain adaptable and productive, and ultimately provides quality service to its customers. This can easily be achieved through the Leadership Development Program, with little to no expense, other than one’s time and attention.

“Employees are realizing the benefits of participating in the program and using its resources to assist them with their development,” said Carol Hennekens, the Leadership Development Program manager. “Beginning with the 2016-2017 program year starting in September, we are excited to announce the program will offer many new learning opportunities and additional resources, which will support new as well as past participants who want to enroll again.”

Open to all employees, the program is individually customized and flexible to meet participants’ development goals. It can be structured, informal, rigorous, ongoing and flexible all at the same time.  This unique program requires participants to create their own development goals and set their own development schedule to fit their busy work schedule.
Sheila Hatchell, Library director, is a past program participant and supervises staff that have benefited from the program. 

“As a participant in the Leadership Development Program, I chose to study the personality trait of introversion and how I could make changes to be more effective in my work relationships,” said Hatchell.  “I would not have taken the time to do that without my commitment to the program.  Each of our staff has taken advantage of the program in some capacity, whether as a program participant or working as a group to host a learning opportunity. The knowledge gained about the department’s work and the opportunity to expand our networks has strengthened our day-to-day interactions with customers.”

The 2016-2017 Leadership Development Program is structured with two groups starting at different times during the program year.  Group 7 will start Sept. 1, 2016 and Group 8 will start March 1, 2017.  Employees can enroll in either group during the enrollment period, which starts June 26. A second enrollment period for Group 8 is scheduled for December 2016.

To learn more about the Leadership Development Program, and how to enroll, visit the LDP website, or attend an optional Lync information session. See the dates below.  An email to all employees will go out soon with more information on how to register to attend one of these sessions. 

Leadership Development Program – optional Lync information sessions

  • Friday, June 24 – 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Tuesday, June 28 – 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 14 – 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The LDP Team is available to answer questions. Contact Carol Hennekens, Shawn Meade, or Amanda Klawiter.

On the Job: Jarvis Keys working to keep seniors and persons with disabilities moving around the Twin Citiesí metro

By Mary McFarland Brooks

Photo of Jarvis Keys.

Jarvis Keys, transit office, inspects a new Traxs bus for lights, blinkers, mileage, fuel efficiency, securing devices for wheelchairs, lift operation and overall maintenance. Photo by Mary McFarland Brooks

Ben Franklin said, “If you want something done ask a busy person to do it.” Jarvis Keys, transit office, was asked to assist with the Enhanced Mobility of seniors and individuals with disabilities program in 2013 when it morphed from a previous system that dated back to 1975. It is identified as the 5310 program locally and was established by the Federal Transit Authority as a capital assistance effort to help communities provide transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.

The program is structured to address transportation needs where public transit is inadequate or inappropriate. Community private, non-profit organizations are encouraged to partner for the purpose of purchasing a bus and to maximize the efficiency of the service so regional transit insufficiencies in transportation are eliminated.

Keys gradually took over management of the 21 Twin Cities’ metro area non-profits that purchased buses. Some of these non-profits have multiple sites and vehicles. One of the requirements of the program is that site visits are done annually, which requires Keys to visit 31 localities. In addition to site visits each of the 126 vehicles requires quarterly reports and inspections.   

Keys’ role during the site visits is to confirm that licensing, insurance and service documentation is current and correct. Because program participants are located from White Bear Lake to Farmington and many spots in between, Keys spends a fair amount of windshield time traveling for site inspections.    

Due to the complexity of the 5310 program that now involves Title VI requirements, asset management, new coordination, ridership and operating requirements, Keys organized quarterly gatherings of all the non-profits in the 5310 program. The meetings encourage mentoring and provide the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals committed to transporting underserved communities.

Under Keys’ watch, a new database system, Black Cat, was initiated. The system manages the 75 sub-recipient organizations statewide, along with data about the more than 300 vehicles on duty. One requirement of each site is that program information is entered into Black Cat promptly and that each site is current with its service design. The data capture, service designs and other issues are discussed at the six outreach workshops held statewide annually for the 5310 program and the quarterly metro workshops.

“Jarvis has done a good job in redefining and helping non-profits in the Metro Area in regard to how they do their transportation,” said John Groothuis, 5310 program coordinator. Much of the support that Keys offers comes by way of sharing methods that work in other regions of the metro and in providing advice and support.

Keys is impressed with the quality of the transit service and the dedication of the non-profits to their clients.

 “Their most compelling mission is to serve people and each non-profit has a commitment to transporting their clients and is passionate about the assistance they offer,” he said.

Keys is a visible part of the MnDOT world as he leads agency-wide wellness programs, sings in the MnDOT choir and organizes brown bag lunch and learns. In his spare time he coaches youth football.

Describe your role in the 5310 program?
I am the Metro-area manager of the 5310 program. I inspect all of the metro area vehicles and help facilitate day-to-day operations. Because 35 to 45 of the buses are replaced annually and one to two new non-profits become part of the program each year, the landscape is always changing.

Has your job changed since you started with the 5310 program three years ago?
My job has changed in a sense that I now have more responsibilities with the program. For example, in regard to each non-profit’s service plan, there are new systems, times and locations for each of the service levels that are offered in a community.

What has been the best part of working with the 5310 program?
The best part is working with the clients and drivers. I am a people person and really appreciate the interaction I have with the drivers and transit managers.

What are some of the current challenges of the 5310 program?
One of the current challenges is scheduling the inspections. The inspections are mainly performed during the period from April through September. Trying to schedule around vacations and holidays can be somewhat difficult; however we always make it work.

How have you seen the program change since you have been involved?
I have implemented some things that have made the process more efficient. For example, we send a list of items that are needed at inspection before we visit the non-profit. This has been very effective as the directors are prepared and it provides for a more efficient site visit. It is important that the transit providers can get back to what they do best, which is providing transit for their clients.

You have been at MnDOT for many years, what was your most unique experience working with MnDOT?
The most unique experience has been working with people all over greater Minnesota. In my earlier years I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around the state and meet good people that want to make their community better. Transit and getting folks to jobs and other activities is critical to the community and collectively to the state.

What did you do before you came to MnDOT?
Before I came to MnDOT I worked seven years at a grain elevator in Savage, Minn. driving a locomotive, probing wheat trucks and working on barges. Lots of fun--hard work, but fun.   

If you could, what one thing would you change about your job?
Not a thing, I really like working at MnDOT. It’s a great place to work with a lot of good people.

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:


Whatís new on the web

New Library Materials

New Library Materials are available at This issue features an interesting book that gives historical background information for the streets and some neighborhoods in St. Paul.

New Library Materials is a compilation of new titles and other resources added to the library collection during the previous month. If you would like to be added to the distribution list, contact Pam Gonzalez at 651-366-3749.  

Previous editions of New Library Materials are available at

For other information requests, contact the Library at 651-366-3791 or email, or send requests via the Ask a Librarian Web page at

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