Sept. 16, 2020
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Sept. 21-24 puts focus on identifying steps to address climate change

By Mary McFarland Brooks

Photo: solar panels alongside a wooded area

This solar array, developed by Novel Energy Solutions, is located at the MnDOT facility in Afton. Photo courtesy of Novel Energy Solutions

Worldwide focus during this year’s Climate Week (Sept. 21-24, 2020) will be on identifying steps that government and individuals can initiate to address climate change.

Climate Week is an international event, first hosted in 2009 by The Climate Group in New York City. The environmental summit is scheduled annually when the United Nations General Assembly convenes and international leaders from business, government and communities highlight global climate action.

“Climate change is already happening – the record-breaking wildfires out west foreshadow what an unstable climate future looks like,” said Tim Sexton, assistant commissioner and chief sustainability officer. “Putting climate goals at the center of strategy and risk models is critical to avoid the most catastrophic impacts to our economy and environment in Minnesota.”

Transportation is the largest emitter of carbon pollution in the state, Sexton said. The agency’s most recent Sustainability Report outlines MnDOT’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 30 percent by 2025 (from 2005 levels).

Actions MnDOT is taking to reduce carbon pollution include:

  • Creating the  Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher and includes 23 public, private and nonprofit sector leaders and elected officials to provide recommendations on how MnDOT can reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions
  • Supporting clean renewable energy by leasing space to community solar gardens designed to produce up to three megawatts of clean, renewable energy and save the Metro District up to $175,000 through CSG subscriptions
  • Encouraging electric vehicle use by electrifying the agencies light duty vehicles
  • Providing transparency on electric vehicle trends, including the number of registrations and chargers in Minnesota counties, through the newly updated Electric Vehicle Dashboard
  • Improving agency operations in the areas of facility energy use, fleet fossil fuel use and state highway construction operations
More information is available at

We want your input
The Office of Sustainability and Public Health is currently taking comments through Oct. 1 on its recently released Draft Strategic Plan.



Urban reconstruction times two = twice the risks, but double the rewards

By Sandra Schlagel, District 8 public affairs coordinator

Urban reconstructions don’t come along every year in District 8, so to have two in one year was a big undertaking filled with challenges for MnDOT, as well as the rural communities of Litchfield and Hutchinson. City officials, residents and business owners were concerned about losing business, navigating detours, getting access to their homes and businesses, as well as worrying about whether the historic buildings would be able to withstand heavy equipment and excavations during city utility upgrades.

Happily, efforts were made on the part of many to work collaboratively and meet the challenges inherent in urban reconstruction projects.

Early risk management contributes to success of Hwy 12 project in Litchfield

Crews replaced city utilities as part of the reconstruction project in Litchfield. Photo by Jon Gueningsman

For Hwy 12 in Litchfield, MnDOT and the contractor worked hard to accelerate the project, recognizing the benefits to businesses and residents. Early risk management enabled the project to be completed seven weeks earlier than anticipated.

“This project will go down as one of my best in terms of a great prime contractor who scheduled and staffed the project very well,” said Al Setrum, MnDOT construction supervisor. “They were fantastic with local business owners and addressed every issue in a very timely way.”

The reconstruction of Hwy 12 in downtown Litchfield, along with utility updates by the city, was a two-year project that began in 2019.

“With the historic district and the condition of some of those buildings, we had to change a lot of the traditional grading and underground methods of compaction,” said Setrum. “We also ran into a few other issues, including a room underneath a building porch area that we didn’t know was there until we removed the sidewalk.”

Even with the pandemic and aged downtown structures, the project moved ahead at an effective pace and was completed successfully Sept. 4.

“I will always reference this project going forward as one that could have had a lot go wrong but went so right because the parties were willing to partner and work together through unforeseen challenges,” said Setrum. “It turned out to be a very smooth, good-looking project.” The community has shown its appreciation for construction crews and MnDOT staff with thank-you emails, texts and posters. A virtual ribbon cutting celebration is set for Sept. 19.

Learn more about the project at the Hwy 12 Litchfield website.

Work on Hwy 15 in Hutchinson off to good start, on track for October completion

Crews pave the concrete center lane on Hwy 15 in downtown Hutchinson. Photo by Ben Sandoz

In Hutchinson, MnDOT and the city planned for construction to take place in stages to reduce impacts to downtown businesses and residents. The project got off to a good start in April this year and is scheduled to be completed in October. In addition to the downtown reconstruction with utility upgrades, two miles of Hwy 15 is being resurfaced north of downtown, with a left-turn lane addition and pedestrian crossing upgrades.

“We’ve had a few bumps during construction, but overall, the project has gone well,” said Ben Sandoz, MnDOT construction supervisor. “It’s coming together well and on-time. With the urban projects, the challenges always seem to be the unknowns. You never know what you are going to run into until you start digging and encounter it. One example would be areas that don’t line up with what’s proposed in the plan and then having to come up with adjustments to make it work in the field.”

Good weather prevailed early in the project, which got its start during Minnesota’s stay-at-home period.

“The weather this summer is what surprised me the most,” said Sandoz. “Typically, we encounter two to four rain days every month on a project and with this project, I can count the days we lost to rain on one hand. Also, we were expecting to find contaminated soil throughout the project, but in the end, we encountered it only once. Both were pleasant surprises that are helping get this project completed on time.”
A virtual ribbon-cutting celebration is being planned for the second half of October. Learn more about the project at the Hwy 15 Hutchinson website.

The project teams emailed weekly construction updates to subscribers and posted updates on social media and the MnDOT project websites for both projects. Keeping community members informed and providing them with contact information allowed everyone to voice concerns as they arose and stay up to date on closures and construction phases. With one urban reconstruct in the books, and another just a few weeks from completion, District 8 construction staff are appreciative of the good working relationships that they experienced with the project contractors and stakeholders.



CAV Challenge is contender for America’s Top Transportation Project

Will MnDOT’s Connected and Automated Vehicle Challenge be America’s Top Transportation Project? Your vote can help decide.

Photo: an automated vehicle

One of Minnesota’s connected and automated vehicle pilot projects participating in the CAV Challenge is the autonomous shuttle in Rochester. Submitted photo

The 2020 America’s Transportation Awards competition is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Each year the competition recognizes the projects and programs that make their communities better places to live, work and play, focusing on three areas: getting more out of the existing system; implementing new technologies and innovations; and improving overall quality of life and enhance community development.

The Minnesota CAV Challenge is competing in the Best Use of Technology & Innovation category. The CAV Challenge’s goal is to harness rapidly evolving connected and automated vehicle technologies by inviting industry, non-profits, businesses and the public to propose CAV solutions that advance community safety, equity, accessibility, mobility and sustainability. Current pilot projects in Minnesota include an autonomous shuttle at the Rochester Mayo Clinic, autonomous maintenance vehicles, an autonomous 40-foot bus, as well as research on how LIDAR can “see” in the snow.
Projects are competing for two national awards:

  • The Grand Prize, selected by a panel of judges
  • The People’s Choice Award, decided by online popular vote. Participants may vote on any number of projects, once per day. Voting period closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 25. Online votes will be weighted to each state’s population, allowing for greater competition between states with larger and smaller populations

Winners of the top two prizes will each receive $10,000 to donate to a charity or scholarship of their choice. The winners will be announced at the AASHTO Virtual Annual Meeting on Nov. 9.



Coming soon: Microsoft Teams

By Evan Iacoboni, Service Delivery Specialist, Technology Investment Management

Microsoft Teams, which creates a virtual workspace for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings, file sharing and app sharing, is now being rolled out in phases throughout MnDOT. The first phase began Aug. 18.

“Teams is an important addition to the current Microsoft tools MnDOT uses, particularly as many employees continue to work remotely,” said Jim Close, MNIT chief business technology officer at MnDOT, who has been part of the Teams implementation team since the beginning.

“At MnDOT, we collaborate with many products for email, calendars, documents, videoconferencing, phones and other services,” he said. “Teams ties these and many other services together, where agendas, notes, appointments and conversations are all efficiently consolidated in one place and organized by group or community. I’m also excited knowing that Teams has new features like live captions and new services scheduled in the future, such as softphones, video streaming and other tools.”

MnDOT Chief Financial Officer Kristi Schroedl is also looking forward to the improved features that Teams offers at a time when many MnDOT employees must work from home due to COVID-19.

“I’m excited that we’ll be rolling out Microsoft Teams as another collaboration tool available to MnDOT employees. I think users will find that the tool is easy to use, and a great way to support the remote work environment that many of our MnDOT employees are experiencing,” said Schroedl. “One of the cool options available is that you can pick your own background in Teams. If you don’t want any background, you can even blur it out.”

Pilot Teams users at MnDOT have worked with the new software since July 2019, with great success. Jocelyn Stein, business integration manager in the Office of Administration, is part of the pilot project and has enjoyed the enhanced meeting experience in Teams.

“We experience smoother web meetings, instant messaging and SharePoint integration using Teams. Teams goes way beyond Skype in terms of functionality,” she said.

Stein is also looking forward to the additional applications that will be available alongside Teams.

“We’re looking forward to using Planner, Forms and Stream more once Teams is rolled out – there is so much exciting potential within the Teams toolset. Planner will be a helpful addition to our project management toolkit; Forms is a survey/polling application similar to Survey Monkey; and Stream is a corporate YouTube-like application,” she said.

In addition to being another tool for group communication and collaboration, Teams is an important tool for agency-wide meetings while MnDOT continues to practice social distancing. The 2020 Managers’ Workshop will be hosted on the Teams platform. Teams’ functionality will support all elements of the Managers’ Workshop agenda including external speakers, and panel question and answer session.
Teams will fully replace Skype for instant messaging and web meetings within a year.

Microsoft will decommission Skype beginning in July 2021, and MnDOT plans to retire Skype at the same time.

Guidelines for getting started with Teams

  • Please wait your turn. MnDOT continues to rollout Teams in phases. This allows limited IT staff to better serve MnDOT employees and respond to issues. You will be invited to join Teams through email this fall.
  • Only download Teams from the official Software Center. Do not download from or other external websites. You may review software downloading Guidelines for Information Technology Use at MnDOT.
  • If you have general questions about Teams, contact Evan Iacoboni or your supervisor.
  • For technical questions about Teams, contact



On the Job: Shanna Williams helps bring Office of Civil Rights’ services to small businesses, workforce

By Mary McFarland Brooks

Photo: Shanna Williams

Shanna Williams. Submitted photo

What do you do in your job?
As a communications specialist for the Office of Civil Rights, I spend most days creating and executing tactical marketing materials in an effort to drive small business and workforce supportive services to an awareness of MnDOT’s available training. Materials range from fliers, email blasts, poster boards and Newsline and GovDelivery articles to writing scripts featured on local radio stations. Other functions of my position include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing and executing strategic communication and marketing plans
  • Collaborating with external vendors to produce services and programs that ignite a call to action to our target audience(s)
  • Connecting with cross-functional teams to ensure projects are delivered in scope, on time and within budget
  • Maintaining project plans and schedules

I recently had the opportunity to work in a lead role on the redesign of Office of Civil Rights’ external website and planning and executing an external communications plan. I also interviewed small businesses, vendors and workforce participants for a video that highlighted services, programs and successful certified small business firms and workforce participants who took advantage of the resources offered by OCR. In summary, I find my main purpose in ensuring that OCR’s voice and its efforts are properly represented to the public, key stakeholders and our internal office. 

How long have you been at MnDOT?
I recently celebrated my two-year anniversary.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Collaborating with my team and other cross-functional teams to encourage certified small businesses and workforce participants to achieve their goals.

How has your work changed recently?
My work is constantly evolving, which is exciting because I thrive in challenging environments. However, the biggest change aside from project-based tasks would be our involuntary leap into the virtual world of working from home. I praise and stand by the safety measures that are in place at MnDOT and although it was definitely a change that required some getting used to on my part, now that we are more than five months into our full-time home stations, I have embraced our temporary new norm.

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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