Feb. 3, 2021
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Historic bow-string arch Kern Bridge finds new home connecting Mankato parks

Photo: the historic Kern Bridge

The 1873-built Kern Bridge in original location. The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, holds the distinction of being one of the oldest bridges in Minnesota. It is made from wrought iron and is the only bow-string arch bridge in Minnesota. After being disassembled last year, the bridge will be moved to a new location near Mankato and added to a trail system. Photo by LHB, Inc.

By Mary McFarland Brooks

Less than five miles downstream from its original site, the historic 1873 Kern Bridge has found a new home connecting the Land of Memories Park to Sibley Park in Mankato.

After traversing the Le Sueur River for 147 years, the recycled bridge will now be part of the Minnesota River State Trail. This bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, holds the distinction of being one of the oldest bridges in Minnesota. It is made from wrought iron and is the only bow-string arch bridge in Minnesota. At 189 feet long, it is the longest of its type in the nation.

In some ways, the bridge outlived its crossing. Closed to traffic in 1991, the bridge was a part of a township road that was abandoned. Its limestone abutments were crumbling, meaning the bridge could be damaged by flooding or possibly fall into the river. Despite these challenges, the bridge itself was in good condition.

MnDOT applied for and received a federal transportation alternative grant to cover moving costs, and Blue Earth County Public Works crews carefully dismantled the bridge last winter and loaded it into sealed containers. MnDOT then advertised the bridge as available for re-use.

Eight parties were initially interested in the bridge. Eventually, Mankato competed against three other Minnesota agencies (Fergus Falls, Sherburn County and Watonwan County) for ownership.

The criteria for evaluating bridge proposals included:

  • Meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and being relisted on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Locating the bridge in a setting with connection to existing trail systems
  • Determining how much the bridge would be used and viewed
  • Identifying risks in deliverability and commitment to future maintenance
  • Evaluating the expertise of project team, community support and planned funding sources

Photo: map showing new location of historic Kern Bridge

This graphic indicates proposed new location of the Kern Bridge. Submitted photo.

Mankato will receive federal funding (80 percent of cost) to relocate and rehabilitate the bridge. Although Mankato is urban, the future Kern Bridge setting is wooded, crosses the Blue Earth River and is a similar setting to the original bridge site. Pedestrians and bicyclists will access the bridge through the existing trail system.

The bridge will be seen from the north via a scenic overlook and from the south via Hwy 60/Hwy 169. Though the proposal included use of extensive approach spans to meet the river’s width, the choice of a streamlined girder will allow the arch to be most visually present, an important consideration in re-listing the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, Mankato’s proposal noted.

The Mankato project team includes an engineering firm and historian group with bridge rehabilitation experience. Blue Earth County, which partnered with MnDOT to save the bridge, fully supports Mankato’s plan, as the Kern Bridge carries much cultural significance in the area. 

“All the applicants presented proposals that would have provided a good home to this important piece of Minnesota’s transportation heritage,” said Katie Haun Schuring, historian, Office of Environmental Stewardship. “Having it relocated close to the original site is an added advantage.”

More information about the Kern Bridge



Governor’s transportation proposal includes targeting investments, maintaining service levels

By Joseph Palmersheim

When the 92nd Minnesota legislative session officially began Tuesday, Jan. 5, some members stayed close by keeping distant, choosing to be sworn in via Zoom rather than in-person.

Pandemic or not, MnDOT staff are  keeping an eye—also from a physical distance—on Gov. Tim Walz’s budget proposal, which he announced Jan. 26. The governor’s “COVID-19 Recovery Budget” recommendation includes targeting transportation investments in the areas of equity, climate change and safety; maintaining existing service levels without a budget reduction; and preserving the sales tax-supported general fund transfer to the highway user tax distribution fund. This general fund transfer provides more than $400 million in transportation funding in the FY 2022-23 biennium.

“This is essentially a ‘status-quo-plus’ budget,” said Josh Knatterud-Hubinger, budget director.

The major highlights of the FY 2022-23 Governor’s Budget Recommendation for MnDOT include:

Investments in Equity, Environment and Emerging Trends

  • Small Contracts to Advance Equity: $2 million of base funding to support Small Business Contracting Opportunities that improve sidewalk and road accessibility and other Small Contracts to Advance Equity programs.
  • Climate Change Subcabinet - Salt Reduction, Sustainability and Public Health:
    • $575,000 of base funding to develop and coordinate sustainability and public health activities for MnDOT to promote public health, develop and track progress towards sustainability goals, improve efficiency of agency operations, and improve resilience of the transportation system.
    • One-time funding of $2.13 million/year in FY 2022-23 to invest in liquid deicing chemicals and storage and application equipment. Directs a portion of existing all-EV registration fee to expand public EV charging and accelerate EV growth in Minnesota.
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Drone Fees: Harmonizes state and federal aviation law and reduces barriers to commercial operation of drones in Minnesota, including reducing the registration fee to $25 from $100 in efforts to ensure compliance with registration requirements.

Investments in Safety – Securing People and Supporting Systems

  • Cyber Security, Risk Management and Agency Priority Initiatives:
    • $9.8 million of base funding to support IT Critical technology systems to enable the agency to successfully plan, build, operate and maintain the state’s multimodal transportation system.
    • MnDOT will increase investments to modernize systems for enhanced disaster recovery performance, improve the quality and value of data, reduce agency exposure to cyber risks, improve data management and increase transparency.
  • Rail Safety and Development: Hiring two additional rail inspectors and increase funding for the rail grade safety account from $1 million per year to $2.5 million per year to respond to increased needs for rail safety improvements.
  • Homeless Encampment Sites Long Term Solution: $350,000 of base funding to develop and implement long-term solutions for homeless encampment sites along MnDOT right of way.

Maintaining Existing MnDOT Services

There are also a limited number of change items to support Maintaining Existing MnDOT Services - Preserving the Existing Transportation to stabilize funding for transportation in critical areas, including:

  • State Road Construction Appropriation Increase: This request enables MnDOT to recognize the recently enacted federal COVID relief funds, use unreserved balance of the Trunk Highway Fund and align federal funds with the recently updated State Transportation Improvement Program.
  • Operating Pressures: This request is a base increase in both the general fund and trunk highway fund to help maintain service levels to cover increasing costs due to inflation on commodities, compensation cost increases for insurance and contractual step increases, rent/lease and volume and rate increase for IT services. Amounts include $46,000 in FY 2022 and $90,000 in FY 2023 and thereafter for the general fund and $9.36 million in FY 2022 and $9.56 million in FY 2023 and thereafter for the trunk highway fund.
  • Increase Admin Cap for Transit Assistance: Increase portion of funding that can be allocated for administrative costs to 2 percent of Greater Minnesota Transit Account.  

“The governor’s budget proposal is the opening salvo in this process,” Knatterud-Hubinger said. “The House and Senate also prepare budget proposals. The governor’s budget proposal lays out Gov. Walz’s priorities, but it does not necessarily reflect what we’ll ultimately get.”

Budgets are typically finished by the end of session, Knatterud-Hubinger said, but can sometimes go longer depending on what happens during the process.

Additional information is also available on the governor’s website, the Minnesota Management and Budget website, and the Office of Financial Management iHUB website.

Weekly legislative summaries will be posted on the Government Affairs iHUB page throughout the session.

The session must adjourn by May 17.



MnDOT to enter biennium with new strategic plan

By Judy Jacobs

Work on a new strategic plan is underway, influenced in part by the many challenges, and changes, the agency has faced during a global pandemic.

MnDOT leadership began the discussion at the Managers’ Workshop in September 2020. Also in September the agency included questions in its bi-annual Partnership Survey to help identify perceptions about the agency’s current and future role. In addition, more than 200 employees across the agency have participated in 20 focus groups to share their thoughts and ideas.

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, a Mission, Values and Priorities survey was sent to every MnDOT employee, asking for review and feedback.

Employees are encouraged to provide input on what’s been developed so far and to help determine next steps,” said Kim Collins, deputy commissioner, chief administration officer. “The best way to do that is to complete the Mission, Values and Priorities survey. We look forward to hearing your ideas.”

MnDOT will provide the survey results on iHUB in March, as well as host online sessions to discuss the survey results with employees.

“It’s important to note that MnDOT is building this plan in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, creating connections from the enterprise to agency level to assure ongoing alignment” said Nancy Daubenberger, deputy commissioner and chief engineer.

The new Mission, Values and Strategic Plan will launch in July 2021. It will incorporate priorities from Governor Walz’s One Minnesota Plan to ensure statewide alignment. Additionally, the strategic plan is being developed in coordination with the updated Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan to connect MnDOT’s agency and transportation system goals.

“MnDOT’s Mission, Values and Strategic Plan are being updated now to reflect our commitment to all of the communities we serve while acknowledging racial justice and inequalities,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “By gathering employee input through focus groups and surveys, we hope employees will see themselves in what’s developed.”

Visit iHUB for more information on the One Minnesota Plan and the Mission, Values and Strategic Plan.



February events highlight Black History Month

By Joseph Palmersheim

The African-American Employee Resource Group invites all MnDOT employees to a series of online Lunch and Learn events offered in February to celebrate Black History Month.

The Story of Soul Food: From Africa to America

Learn about the origins of African and Soul Food, the techniques developed to cook flavorful foods during and after slavery, and the recipes that live on today through generational and cultural changes during this noon-hour Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

“Historically, soul food is considered an ethnic cuisine that was traditionally prepared by African-Americans from the Deep South, in particular, the states of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama,” said Victoria Hopwood, AAERG member. “Since slaves were considered property and the plantation owner was running a business, slaves were given meager food rations, spoiled food and low quantities, and they had to find ways to overcome these conditions. By adding spices, changing cooking techniques, and supplementing the food with locally grown and wild vegetables, slaves were able to improve their food condition. Soul food is strongly influenced by the traditions and practices of West Africans and Native Americans. Today, soul food has spread from the American South throughout the country and is easily identifiable and celebrated in mainstream food culture.”

Inspirations in Transportation - Leaders Now Envisioning the Future

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Deputy Commissioner Kim Collins will lead a discussion with leaders from five other state departments of transportation from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The discussion will highlight the careers, opportunities taken, and philosophies of the transportation leaders who are of African or African-American heritage. It will also focus on organizational equity, recruitment and retention, and career advancement in transportation for people of color.

“African Americans across our nation have contributed to the development of our transportation systems,” Collins said. “This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the state highway system. It is most appropriate for MnDOT’s Black History Month event to include a discussion with African-American leaders responsible for driving the future of transportation at their respective state DOTs.”

Non-MnDOT panel members are: Adetokunbo (Toks) Omishakin, Ph.D., director, California Department of Transportation; Jack Marchbanks, Ph.D., director, Ohio Department of Transportation; Omer Osman, P.E., Secretary of Transportation, Illinois Department of Transportation; Paul Ajegba, P.E., director, Michigan Department of Transportation; and Shawn Wilson, Ph.D., Secretary of Transportation, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Learn more about the AAERG. If you would like to become an AAERG member or ally, contact Gina Kundan, Office of Equity and Diversity. 

Please note: Another AAERG-sponsored activity, the Feb. 3 “Safeguarding Your Technology – What You Need to Know to Protect Your Home and Work Computers,” happened just before this article’s publication deadline.



Tips and tricks for using Microsoft Teams

Decorative element: Microsoft teams logo

MNIT discontinued using Skype at the end of January and MnDOT is now in a Microsoft Teams-only environment. We will continue to provide Teams tips and tricks as we adjust to our new web meeting and collaboration tool.

Reminder of training resources and telework iHUB resources

After significant work behind the scenes, the Teleworking website on iHUB has gone through a complete overhaul. From virtual workplace innovation tips to ergonomics for home offices to teleworking wellness courses and more, the website covers a range of topics to help you deliver MnDOT’s mission every time you log on. If you have questions or comments about the website, please reach out to Jen Parshley, Commissioner’s Office.

In addition to the Telework website, the MnDOT Teams Training webpage has Teams-specific guidance, including Microsoft Teams Usage Guidelines at MnDOT and ​Teams Meetings Access Scenarios and Best Practices​. These documents are updated based questions received by the IT Service Desk and Technology Investment Management.

Still looking for more information? MNIT has resources on the Learning Pathways page. Also consider joining the Teams Champions team to get information on upcoming trainings and see Teams solutions from your colleagues across the State of Minnesota enterprise.

How to pop-out windows

A lot can happen in Teams. Luckily, Teams allows you to pop-out windows to chat and attend meetings.
To pop out a chat, go to your Teams desktop applications, select “chat,” and the new chat icon. Type the name of your colleague, or colleagues you wish to chat with. Once your message has started you can pop out the message by hovering over the chat thread and select “pop-out chat.” More information on pop-out chat.

Team meetings can also be in a pop-out window. This will happen automatically in the “new meeting experience” offered through Teams. To turn the new meeting experience on, click on your profile icon in the top right hand corner of Teams and select “settings.” In the settings window select “Turn on new meeting experience.” Please note: new meetings and calls will open in separate windows. Turning this feature on requires restarting Teams.

Contacts in Teams

The contacts you had created in Skype are available in Teams - just in a different area. Contacts can now be found in two areas: in “calls” and “chat.”

To see your contacts in “chat,” click on the “chat” area in Teams. Once viewing your chats, click again on “chat” and select “contacts” from the drop down menu. Clicking on contacts here will start a chat message to them.

Additionally, you can manage contacts and groups in the “calls” area. More information on contact management in Teams.

Dial-in ordering reminder

The Dial-in for Teams function allows attendees to use a phone line to call into a meeting. A local phone number and PIN will be included in Teams meeting invitations. Once a meeting organizer has the dial-in placed on their account all attendees will have the option to call into the meeting.

Those interested in requesting the dial-in number for Teams meetings should contact Please include the first and last name and the email address for the individuals you are requesting to have access to the dial-in service.More information on dialing in.

This article was written by Evan Iacoboni, Matthew Baszner, Nkauj Her, Bobby Underhill and Susan Ogbemudia.



On the Job: Ruth Hinrichs-Clark enjoys the challenge of auditing

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: Ruth Hinrichs-Clark

Ruth Hinrichs-Clark. Submitted photo

Ruth Hinrichs-Clark works as a principal auditor and team lead for the Office of Audit’s External Audit Unit. She has been with MnDOT for 16 years, having previously served with the departments of Commerce and Public Safety. Prior to her 20 years of state service, she spent 13 years in private sector accounting.

For those who don’t know, how would you describe auditing?
Auditing is the process of examining, analyzing, testing and verifying financial records to determine if they are accurate and in compliance with contract/grant agreements and applicable federal and state regulations. Audits provide accountability for the use of public funds, provide management assurance, and are required when federal funds are used for a project/program.

Why is auditing important?
Auditing increases the accountability of all parties involved in a project. The process involves multiple steps, including ensuring that necessary documents are present. An auditor will use these and other planning steps to gain an understanding of the subject material, and, in the end, come up with a conclusion in a report. Once the audit is complete, it is sent to a team lead for review and then on to the requesting office. Auditing is about ensuring that high standards of accuracy and compliance are met. Having multiple eyes on a detailed review of a project provides management, and by extension the taxpayers, with reasonable assurance that fraud, misstatement, or illegal acts or other types of noncompliance are not occurring. It helps us effectively maintain oversight of public funds.

What do you find interesting about it? 
I enjoy the variety and complexity of the work we do, and how the end results can effect different programs and projects. I enjoy being challenged and learning new things, working with different offices within MnDOT, and assisting team members in finding resolution to complexed issues. It’s satisfying to see the end results of the overall accomplishments of the team.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
The Office of Audit is here to help promote transparent financial reporting, which is essential for safeguarding the needs of our agency, taxpayers and clientele.

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:

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