Oct. 16, 2019
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Community solar garden creates electricity in downtown Minneapolis

Solar panels on a rooftop in downtown Minnepolis. The Twins Stadium is in the background

Aerial photo of solar garden atop Ramp A of ABC Ramps in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Cooperative Energy Futures

By Anne Meyer

Some may see it as a shiny carport, but to many businesses and residents near downtown Minneapolis, the new community solar garden atop the MnDOT-owned Ramp A parking lot near Target Field is an energy opportunity.

MnDOT partnered with Cooperative Energy Futures to build the community solar garden. Subscribers will begin earning credits towards their energy costs in November. Similar to a community garden where each person has a plot of land, CEF sells solar garden subscriptions to residents and businesses. Subscribers receive credits on their electric bills for the electricity produced by their portion of the solar garden’s production. The program provides a way for people to access renewable energy that is not directly connected to their electric meter.

The solar garden uses 3,760 panels to generate electricity from sunlight. It is expected to produce 1.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. No parking spaces were lost during construction. 

This is the first solar project in MnDOT’s right of way. The agency will also be a backup subscriber and receive bill credits for at least 20 percent of the subscriptions’ solar array production.

“MnDOT is always looking for new and innovative ways to be efficient with our agency’s resources and improve the environment,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “Creating a community solar garden not only reduces carbon emissions, it also supports our economy by reducing the energy costs of homeowners, businesses and our agency.”

CEF has been building its community solar model since 2013. The Minneapolis-based, member-owned cooperative creates energy efficiency and clean energy solutions.

CEF has a contract to lease the ramp space from MnDOT for the next 25 years.

“Cooperative Energy Futures is thrilled to have this project up and running, and reducing energy costs for Minneapolis co-op members,” said Timothy Den-Herder, general manager of Cooperative Energy Futures. “The leadership demonstrated by MnDOT, the city of Minneapolis and so many others during this project was key to our success. These great partners worked together seamlessly to bring community solar that is accessible to all residents and visible to thousands of Minnesotans to the heart of downtown Minneapolis.”

Eighty percent of the subscriptions will be sold to residential households, primarily in Minneapolis, including low- to moderate-income residents and those in affordable housing.

MnDOT owns the ABC Ramps. The ramps include three parking and multimodal transportation facilities over Interstate 394 in downtown Minneapolis. The city of Minneapolis manages the ramps.



District 1 bridge replacement, I-35 resurfacing project to finish this month

A large yellow truck extends a red boom arm over a partially finished bridge project as crews pour concrete.

Crews pour the deck of the new Hwy 7 Bridge over I-35. Photo by Andrew Deming

By Beth Petrowske, District 1 Public Affairs

District 1’s $24 million I-35 bridge replacement and resurfacing project in southern Pine County near the Metro District border began in April 2018 and will be completed in late October 2019.

The project resurfaced seven miles of northbound and southbound I-35, and reconstructed bridges at the Snake River, Hwy 70 and County Road 7. Work includes the use of unbonded concrete overlays, which improve ride quality and motorist safety.

Due to the adjacent nature of ongoing projects, District 1 and Metro District communications staff worked together to coordinate messages prior to and during construction. District 1 developed a communications plan with a variety of outreach tactics, including a $20,000 radio advertising campaign and Duluth Chamber of Commerce advertisements. Communications staff also created a series of online video project updates.

“After two long construction seasons, the project remains on schedule to be completed by the end of this month,” said Andrew Deming, I-35 Snake River project engineer. “The project won a merit award for concrete paving from the Concrete Paving Association for the concrete paving on I-35 completed in 2018 and we are happy with the quality of the project as a whole.”

More information



Staffing updates

By Joseph Palmersheim

Erik Rudeen

Erik Rudeen. Photo by Rich Kemp

Erik Rudeen is the new director of the Office of Government Affairs. He will be the agency policy liaison for the state legislature, congressional delegation and Governor’s Office staff.

Prior to coming to MnDOT in 2003, Rudeen was administrator of the Minnesota House of Representatives Transportation Finance Committee. He has also worked for think tanks in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., as well as the U.S. Senate. At MnDOT, Rudeen has spent most of his time as the legislative affairs manager in the Government Affairs Office.

Rudeen graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in political science, and was a Humphrey Institute policy fellow at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.



Several system upgrades coming soon

Self service logo, which features a gear superimposed over an outline of the state

By Joseph Palmersheim

The Statewide Integrated Financial Tools system, Employee Self Service Portal and Supplier Portal are being upgraded over Thanksgiving weekend.

All MnDOT employees use the Self Service Portal to view pay information, change/view benefits, look at job postings and more. After the upgrade, users will experience a new look and feel, along with navigation changes and improved accessibility.

SWIFT users will see changes to navigation and some minor changes to functionality. The biggest change will be for employees who use the Strategic Sourcing module. They will be invited to attend classroom-based training. All other users will have access to online training through Minnesota Management and Budget. MMB will also provide online training to the state’s suppliers, who will now have the opportunity to register as bidders.

“The upgrade is more about look and feel, but affects all MnDOT employees, suppliers and retirees,” said Susan Walto, manager, Fiscal Business Continuity. “We are also reaching out to SWIFT users and various groups to provide information. If a group wants a demo or more information, they can send an email to the MnDOT SWIFT Help Desk.”

There will be a new URL for all three systems. Users will need to replace bookmarks, along with system favorites, recent places and user personalizations. Walto recommends that employees review the project pages to see the changes, so they are prepared for a different navigation after November. SWIFT users should look for more information coming throughout October and November.

For more information, email the MnDOT SWIFT Help Desk.



Data Domain Stewards Governance Group updates IT guidelines

By Megan Bauer, Office of Chief Counsel

Information technology guidelines help MnDOT employees understand their specific technology responsibilities. They also protect MnDOT’s IT resources from cyberattack, legal action and waste.

Records Management, Data Practices, Technology Investment Management and Minnesota IT Services have spent the last two years updating MnDOT’s IT guidelines.

“Technology feels like it’s accelerating because it actually is,” said Jennifer W. Witt, records and information manager. “The landscape of technology at MnDOT is constantly changing, and it’s important that we make sure we’re in compliance with laws and regulations governing its use in the workplace.”

Wondering how the new hands-free cellphone law will affect MnDOT operations? Look no further than the “Driving While Using a Device” section of the new guidelines.

Other changes include:

  • Additional guidance on sending and receiving emails
  • Information about file sharing resources for internal and external groups
  • Instructions for proper data storage and management
  • Updated protocols for connecting mobile devices to MnDOT systems
  • Useful tools for password management.

Records Management will update MnDOT’s IT guidelines annually to ensure that they remain current.



New library materials now available

New library materials are now available. In addition to the list of newly cataloged materials by subject, this issue highlights a new current awareness alert titled “Sustainability, Public Health, and Transportation.”

New Library Materials is a compilation of new titles and other resources added to the library collection during the previous month. Email MnDOT Library to be added to the distribution list, or send requests via the Ask a Librarian webpage.



District 4 employee honored with Minnesota State Patrol award

A state trooper and a man in a purple shirt shaking hands

Minnesota State Patrol Capt. Brian Cheney presented a Meritorious Service Award to Darryn Maaninga, MnDOT transportation generalist, in recognition of Maaninga's role in assisting a trooper during an arrest in March 2018. Photo by Kohl Skalin

By Joseph Palmersheim

A District 4 transportation generalist was recently honored for his role in assisting a state trooper during an arrest.

Darryn Maaninga has been with MnDOT for 10 years. His role covers a variety of activities, including traffic counting, mowing and plowing. This last role is where Maaninga found himself on March 5, 2018.

The heavy, wet snow had kept the “A Shift” busy. Maaninga came in at midnight, and made laps with a tow plow on Interstate 94 by Moorhead for more than 10 hours before the “B Shift” was scheduled to take over. His last trip was around 10:30 that morning.

“Somewhere along the line my supervisor and I crossed paths,” Maaninga said. “He was going east and I was going west. He told me there was a trooper partially in the left lane ahead of me, and to watch for him. It’s a common occurrence in a snowstorm.”

As Maaninga came across the Buffalo River Bridge, what he saw was anything but common.

“I saw this person run across the road in front of me,” he said. “I was already slowing down, and moving to the right to give the trooper room. She ran through the ditch, hopped a fence and started running across an open field.”

Maaninga’s window was down, and when he passed State Trooper Mark Peterson’s vehicle, the officer was on top of a man who was struggling in the snow. Peterson hollered for Maaninga to stop. Maaninga did, hopped down from the vehicle and ran over to assist.

“I asked the state trooper what he needed, and he said, ‘You’ve got a gun up there,’” Maaninga said. “He finally got the guy cuffed … and I backed the plow up a bit. The trooper and I kicked the slush pile down in front of the plow and the gun wasn’t there, so I walked down the left side. The gun was right at the start of the mold board on the tow plow. I hollered, ‘Here it is.’ By then, everyone was showing up.”

All of this took place during what Maaninga described as the worst storm the crews had fought all season. He reported the incident to his supervisor when he returned to the station.

According to the story as outlined in the State Patrol award presentation, Peterson was responding to a crash which turned out to involve a stolen vehicle. The trooper was taking the two occupants, a man and a woman, into custody when the woman pointed a handgun at the officer and tried to fire it. The gun misfired, and Peterson fired two shots as the woman tried to chamber another round. Struck in the arm, the woman dropped the gun and fled, later collapsing in the field across the road. This was the woman Maaninga saw while pulling up to the scene. An off-duty Red River regional dispatcher also stopped at the scene, and earned a State Patrol Commendation for her assistance.

Maaninga found out late last summer that he’d been nominated. He was invited to the awards banquet in February 2019, but wasn’t able to go because of a snowstorm that day. State Patrol Capt. Brian Cheney presented the award at a Getting Ready for Winter meeting in Detroit Lakes on Aug. 28. Now, the State Patrol Meritorious Service Award plaque hangs at home, near his Above and Beyond award from MnDOT.

“I didn’t do anything heroic,” he said. “The weather is what put me there.”



American Records Management Association award recognizes data governance

Four people pose with an award plaque

MnDOT was named company of the year by the Twin Cities’ Chapter of the American Records Management Association for its maturity model assessment program. MnDOT's Information Governance team includes, from left, Megan Bauer, Angela Boardman, Jennifer W. Witt and Charles Stech. ARMA is an international organization on managing records and information at all levels of business. In 2016, MnDOT was also named company of the year by the Twin Cities’ chapter of ARMA for its efforts in the creation, use, retention and disposal of information that documents the agency. Photo by Susan Dickens


Connected and Automated Vehicle Office wins award, announces new partnership

A man poses next to a car. The car has several external sensors mounted on the roof

Joe Huneke, maintenance, took a ride in an automated vehicle during a recent demonstration hosted by the Connected and Automated Vehicle office. Photo by Rich Kemp

By Anne Meyer

Only a few months after releasing its new strategic plan, the Connected and Automated Vehicle Office is reaping the rewards of that hard work.

CAV-X and the Department of Administration received a Cronin Award from the National Association of State Procurement Officials last month. The award recognized the unique process created by the CAV Challenge. Typically, it can take more than a year to develop a request for proposals, but the CAV Challenge is an open opportunity for vendors to share ideas with MnDOT about using connected and automated vehicle technology to help solve transportation challenges.

CAV-X also announced its first partner created from the CAV Challenge., a provider of self-driving trucking technology, has teamed up with MnDOT to use the MnROAD facility this winter to test trucks with their system during colder, icier conditions.

“As automation and emerging transportation technology evolve, we understand how critical it is to collaboratively share information and expertise,” said Kristin White, executive director, Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles. “Learning how these self-driving trucks operate in winter weather helps MnDOT advance safety innovation for everyone in the transportation system.”

CAV-X also hosted a demonstration with a connected and automated vehicle at Central Office in September. Staff had a chance to take a ride around the parking lot and share thoughts about how MnDOT should plan and prepare for the changing technology.

There’s more news to come involving CAV-X. Gov. Tim Walz recently introduced members of his Advisory Council on Connected and Automated Vehicles, and the group will begin meeting next month.



Virginia office gets a beary special visitor

A small bear is in bushes, with a street in the background

A bear cub visited the MnDOT office in Virginia on Sept. 26. Staff noticed the cub that morning outside of Project Engineer Neil Schroeder’s office window. The bear remained there most of the day, eating berries from a nearby yew bush. MnDOT staff contact the DNR and were advised to leave the bear alone. In the afternoon, the cub was startled by the public and climbed up a nearby tree. The bear was still in the tree when the MnDOT building closed at 4:30 p.m., but was gone the next morning. DNR staff theorized the bear’s mother might have kicked the cub out, as it appeared to be 1½ to 2 years old, or that the mother had died. Photos by Dan Squires


Do you want to meet a snowplow?

A group of small children are lined up in front of a large MnDOT snowplow truck

MnDOT STEM Education and Outreach visited MacDonald Montessori Preschool in St. Paul on Sept. 18. One-hundred-fifteen excited students got up and close to a MnDOT snowplow and learned about some of the important work MnDOT does to keep roads safe. MnDOT ambassadors included Alex Burch, Office of Maintenance; Eric Mennenga, Metro District maintenance; Marian Kramer, Office of Environmental Stewardship; and Marcia Lochner, Office of Human Resources. Photo by MacDonald Montessori Preschool


On the Job: Karen Neinstadt

By Joseph Palmersheim

We caught up with Karen Neinstadt, reference and outreach librarian, to learn more about MnDOT's library and what it has to offer. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Meet Karen, reference and outreach librarian at MnDOT. She has been with the organization for 10.5 years. How would you describe your job? My job is to answer reference questions and market library services through events, presentations, and office visits. What do you find most interesting about your line of work? I like the variety, because no day is “typical.” We receive many types of requests - from simple statistic numbers to complicated community demographic profiles and neighborhood histories!  Transportation is a field that involves a lot more research - beyond engineering - than most people realize. Tell us about some challenges: One of the challenges we encounter is that not everything is “free” and online or readily available like many people assume. We have to make tough decisions and spend the limited resources wisely to meet increasing costs and demands. Some reference requests or literature searches require a lot of time. We have to dig deeper – from intense searching for legislative history and hearings behind a transportation decision, to tracking down microfiche from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. for determining a surveying boundary set in pre-territorial times!

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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