Nov. 10, 2021
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2021 projects improved safety, mobility and accessibility statewide

Photo: one bridge and one culvert

(Top photo) The I-35W Minnesota River Bridge connects Burnsville to Bloomington. This multiyear project replaced an older bridge over the Minnesota River and added a new trail. Photo by Standard

(Bottom photo) This new box culvert on Hwy 64 in District 2 allows boats to travel through the access. Before the project, there was only a public access for boats on the west side of the lake. Photo by Leslie Seitz

By J.P. Gillach

MnDOT finished or made progress on 261 road and bridge projects during the 2021 construction season.

“This year’s construction program delivered new bridges and smoother roads, and improved designs to create better connections and mobility for people walking and biking,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “Several projects also addressed aging infrastructure to help rejuvenate main streets in communities across Minnesota. The projects finished this year will help us achieve our long-term vision of a safer and more sustainable and equitable transportation system that serves all Minnesotans.”

More than 30 projects enhanced safety at railroad crossings, and 19 larger aeronautics projects extended or repaired runways or other infrastructure at airports statewide.

This year marked the second full construction season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges of the pandemic and additional safety protocols – as well as some minor delays due to the drought and water restrictions – MnDOT crews and contractors worked tirelessly to complete most projects on time and on budget.

“We are grateful to the crews, contractors and suppliers who worked diligently to overcome supply chain challenges, and to all Minnesotans for their patience during road construction,” Anderson Kelliher said. “Some work zones around the state remain active, so travelers should pay attention for crews and equipment. Always slow down, move over to give workers room to safely work, and be courteous of other drivers in the work zone with you.”

Major projects completed in 2021

Notable projects completed during the 2021 construction season include 35W@94 Downtown to Crosstown in Minneapolis, I-94 Maple Grove to Clearwater, Hwy 14 Dodge Center to Owatonna, the Hwy 72 International Bridge in Baudette and Hwy 61 in Grand Marais.
More construction highlights by region can also be found at

Twin Cities

  • I-94 Maple Grove to Albertville — Crews are nearing completion on work that includes concrete resurfacing, adding lanes between Hwy 610 and Hwy 101 and between St. Michael and Albertville, improving bridges and ramps, improving the Elm Creek Rest Area and building a new interchange at Dayton Parkway.
  • I-35W Minnesota River Bridge in Burnsville, Bloomington— Completed multiyear project to replace the I-35W Bridge over the Minnesota River, replace pavement and add a new trail.
  • I-35W Roseville and Blaine — Completed third and final year on I-35W North that included resurfacing I-35W and ramps, constructing an E-ZPass Express Lane in each direction, reconstructing eight bridges and installing seven noise walls.
  • I-35W@94 Minneapolis – Completed four-year project on I-35W in Minneapolis that included rebuilding ramp from I-35W North to I-94 West, adding E-ZPass Lanes, constructing Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Station and repairing bridges and pavement.
  • Hwy 52 in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights Completed resurfacing between I-494 and Concord Street, concrete repair between Concord Street and Plato Boulevard, and accessibility improvements.
  • Hwy 12 safety improvements in west Twin Cities metro Added new concrete median barrier between County Road 6 and Baker Park Road, and a roundabout at County Road 90 to improve safety.

Northeast Minnesota (District 1)

  • Hwy 61 Grand Marais – Completed a two-year urban reconstruction project in Grand Marais with complete streets improvements.
  • Hwy 61 Grand Portage – Resurfaced Hwy 61, replaced culverts, improved intersections and built a new bridge at Hollow Rock Creek.
  • Hwy 2 Itasca County – Repaved 19 miles of Hwy 2 between Prairie River and Grand Rapids.
  • Hwy 37 Gilbert – Completed a two-year project through the city of Gilbert with resurfacing, safety and accessibility improvements.
  • Hwy 53 near Pike Lake in St. Louis County – Resurfaced southbound lanes between Midway Road and Independence.

Northwest Minnesota (District 2)

  • Hwy 72 International Bridge in Baudette – Completed and opened the new Hwy 72 Baudette/Rainy River International Bridge, in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
  • Hwy 200 in Laporte – Raised road and installed new culvert to reduce flooding.
  • Hwy 2 in Bagley – Resurfaced Hwy 2, resurfaced multi-use trail, improved accessible pedestrian ramps curb and gutter, storm sewer and Hwy. lighting.
  • Hwy 2 and Hwy 6 in Deer River – Reconstructed Hwy 2 and Hwy 6 in Deer River, replaced sidewalks, underground utilities and culverts.

Four photos of construction

(Clockwise, from top left) I-35W@94 Minneapolis; Hwy 14, Dodge Center to Owatonna; Hwy 60 Lakes Connection (Madison Lake, Elysian, Waterville); and Hwy 61 Grand Marais. Photos by Rich Kemp, Mike Dougherty, Sheila Thoma and Margie Nelson.

Central Minnesota (District 3 and District 4)

  • I-94 Maple Grove to Albertville — Crews are nearing completion on work that includes concrete resurfacing, adding lanes between Hwy 610 and Hwy 101 and between St. Michael and Albertville, improving bridges and ramps, improving the Elm Creek Rest Area and building a new interchange at Dayton Parkway.
  • Hwy 10 Elk River – Reconstructed highway between Simonet Drive and Lowell Avenue, added multi-use trail and improved access at Proctor Avenue.
  • Hwy 95 west of Cambridge – Reconstructed 12 miles and replaced 16 pipes from Isanti County Road 15 near Wyanett to west side of Cambridge, added new roundabout at Hwy 95/65.
  • Hwy 210 Crosby, Ironton – Reconstructed Hwy 210 from Second Street SW to Third Avenue NE in Crosby, replaced underground utilities and sidewalks, resurfaced from west of Seventh Avenue in Ironton to Second Street SW in Crosby and upgrade sidewalks.
  • Hwy 87 Frazee to Becker/Wadena County Line– Reconstructed and resurfaced 26 miles of pavement, widened shoulders between Frazee and Evergreen, replaced bridge over the Otter Tail River near Frazee.
  • Hwy 12 Ortonville to Hwy 59– Reconstructed and resurfaced 26 miles of pavement, widened shoulders, replaced box culverts.   

Southeast Minnesota (District 6)

  • Hwy 14, Dodge Center to Owatonna – Completed new 12.5-mile, four-lane section, new bridges over the Hwy. near Claremont, two new interchanges, removed 13 at-grade railroad crossings in Dodge and Steele counties. Traffic expected on new route in early November. Some work on local roads planned in 2022.  
  • Hwy 63/I-90 interchange – Completed two-year project that replaced two Hwy 63 bridges over I-90, reconstructed I-90 off-ramp to northbound Hwy 63, constructed new off-ramp to southbound Hwy 63 included acceleration lanes and rerouted Hwy 30 intersection.
  • Hwy 74 Whitewater State Park Rehabilitated four historic bridges on Hwy 74in Whitewater State Park.

Southwest Minnesota (District 7 and District 8)

  • Hwy 60, Madison Lake, Elysian, Waterville – Resurfaced 17 miles, reconstructed through Madison Lake, improved sidewalks and crossings, updated pedestrian ramps, modified access and turn lanes, improved county road lighting.
  • Hwy 19 downtown New Prague– Reconstructed Main Street in downtown New Prague, year two of a two-year, city-led project.
  • Hwy 99, Nicollet to St. Peter – Resurfaced 11 miles, replaced and lined culverts, added intersection lighting, lengthened turn lane.
  • Hwy 91, Adrian – Replaced bridge over I-90, drainage and guardrail replacement.
  • Hwy 71, Sanborn bridge  – Replaced bridge spanning the Cottonwood River, improved drainage and wildlife passage.
  • Hwy 71 in Willmar – Completed several road and safety improvements along six miles, including a reduced conflict intersection, median construction, culvert replacement, U-turn access, pavement maintenance, and concrete pedestrian crossings.



MnDOT looks to the future with infrastructure bill

By Joseph Palmersheim

With House and Senate passage of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, MnDOT is looking into how the funding will help the agency address a significant funding gap.

While the bill has yet to be signed into law by President Biden, it’s likely that that projects in the 5-10 year range of the Capital Highway Investment Plan could get addressed sooner. The funding may help address public transportation and investment in EV charging capacity.

“This historic vote is a transformational federal commitment to a safer, more sustainable and equitable transportation future for all Minnesotans,” said Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help MnDOT address the significant funding gap that our transportation infrastructure faces over the next 20 years. We applaud Congress for the bipartisan vote and look forward to working with our partners, stakeholders and legislators, and listening to Minnesotans about what their communities need, as we begin the process of determining projects to fund within the framework of the IIJA.”

According to a White House fact sheet, Minnesota could expect to receive $4.5 billion for federal-aid
highway apportioned programs and $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over five years. It can also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities

The state could also expect to receive more than $818 million over five years under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve public transportation options across the state.

Finally, Minnesota could expect to receive $68 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state, and approximately $297 million for infrastructure development for airports over five years.



New signs acknowledge 1854 tribal treaty boundaries

By Adrien Carretero, Office of Tribal Affairs

A group of people standing near a sign, which reads 1854 treaty boundary

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher (second from right) joined tribal leaders from Grand Portage, Bois Forte & Fond du Lac Nov. 1 to celebrate the first of 12 signs on state highways to permanently mark the 1854 Treaty Boundary, on Hwy 61 just south of the Canadian border. Photo by Jake Loesch

Crews recently installed the first of 12 signs marking the boundaries of the 1854 treaty between the U.S. and three Anishinaabe tribal nations.

The sign, installed Nov. 1, is on southbound Hwy 61, south of the Canadian border and near the entrance to Grant Portage State Park.

Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher joined tribal leaders from the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. They celebrated the sign’s placement while honoring the tribal sovereignty and rights of the Anishinaabe tribal nations in this ceded territory.

“It is something that was long overdue. When people enter the 1854 Treaty area, they will know where they are. Hopefully, they will educate themselves about treaties,” said Robert Deschampe, chair of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Crews will install 11 signs on the following state highways that also cross the 1854 Treaty boundary:

  • Hwy 53 (near Cook)
  • Hwy 169 (near Chisholm)
  • Hwy 37 (near Hibbing airport)
  • Hwy 2 (near Floodwood)
  • Hwy 210 (near Tamarack)
  • Hwy 27 (west of Moose Lake)
  • Hwy 65 (west of Sturgeon Lake)
  • Hwy 65 (west of Sturgeon Lake)
  • Interstate 35 (near Sturgeon Lake)
  • Hwy 23 (near Duquette)
  • Hwy 53 (entering Duluth from Superior)

MnDOT worked with the Advocacy Council for Tribal Transportation (made up of 11 Tribal officials representing Tribal Nations in Minnesota) to acknowledge land ceded by tribal governments by treaties.



Minnesota, Canada welcome back travelers as COVID-related border restrictions end

Restrictions on non-essential international travel for vaccinated travelers between the U.S. and Canada ended Nov. 8, opening the eight land border crossings Minnesota shares with its neighbor to the north.

Leslie Seitz, District 2 public affairs coordinator, shot some drone footage of one of these border crossings, the new Baudette/Rainy River International Bridge, which was built in 2019-20. The bridge is on Hwy 72 in Baudette, Minn., and Hwy 11 in Rainy River, Ontario. It connects full-service, 24-hour Port of Entry facilities in the U.S. and Canada. The new bridge replaces one built in 1959.

The project’s $39.3 million cost was split equally between Minnesota and Ontario. Due to the COVID-related border restrictions, an in-person celebration of the bridge’s completion has been postponed until 2022.

In addition to Baudette, District 2’s international border crossings are Noyes, Lancaster, Pinecreek, Roseau and Warroad; there are also two border crossings in District 1 – International Falls and Grand Portage.

Video transcript

Everyone needed a COVID hobby. The U.S. and Canada built a bridge.

IMAGE: International Bridge, Baudette.

Come on over neighbor. We’ve missed you!

Canadian travelers can get inspired at, by calling 888-VISITMN, via live chat, or stopping by one of our many welcome centers across the state to connect with a Minnesota travel expert.

Special thanks to Brock Stebakken, city of Baudette, and Deb Ewald, city of Rainy River, for their partnership on this video.



Open Enrollment ends Nov. 17

From Minnesota Management & Budget – SEGIP

Open Enrollment runs through Nov. 17, 2021. These benefits are an important part of employee compensation, and employees are encouraged to take time to review options in order to make the best decision.

What’s open

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Pre-tax spending accounts (includes long-term disability)
  • Manager’s income protection plan
  • Life insurance: employee, spouse and child

Compare primary care clinic cost levels

Use the Find a Clinic tool to review your clinic’s cost level for next year. You can only change your clinic in Self Service when you are also changing your health plan administrator. If you only want to change your clinic, call the number on the back of your insurance card in December.

Enrollment tips

  • Plan ahead. Self Service will have a new look and feel when you make your elections. Go to
  • Your coverages and elections continue into 2022 unless you make proactive changes, with the exception of pre-tax accounts.
  • You must make a new election to continue pre-tax spending accounts in 2022.
  • Be sure to select “accept” when you complete your enrollment. You will know your enrollment is finished when you get a Confirmation Statement.

All Open Enrollment information is available at



Virtual event to recognize Minnesota’s veterans for their service

The State of Minnesota Veterans Day event will be virtual this year due to COVID-19. 

A 30-minute recorded program will be available starting at 8 a.m. on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, on The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs invites all Minnesotans to celebrate and honor the veterans who have served our state and country.

“Although we are not gathering in person, the importance of recognizing Minnesota’s veterans for their service, sacrifice and resilience has not diminished,” said Larry Herke, MDVA commissioner. “We encourage all Minnesotans to take a moment to thank the veterans in their lives for the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Country music artist Rockie Lynne will open this year’s program, which will include music and remarks from:

  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz
  • Larry Herke, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner
  • Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard
  • Members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation
  • Ron Haugen, chair of the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force
  • MDVA employees
  • 34th Infantry Division Red Bull Band

The program will be hosted by former WCCO-TV Reporter Bill Hudson. During his time at WCCO, Hudson covered a variety of veteran-related assignments, including Minnesota National Guard missions to Bosnia, Panama and Honduras, and traveling to Saudi Arabia to accompany soldiers returning home from the first Gulf War.

More information about the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs.

MnDOT has 427 veterans. Contact Frida Alvarez to learn more about the Veterans employee resource group.



New library materials available

The October issue of New Library Materials is available. This issue features “The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams,” by Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy and Anne Chow. 

New Library Materials is a compilation of resources added to the library collection during the previous month. Visit and click “New Library Materials” to sign up. Questions and feedback are welcome at Ask a Librarian.



Dive teams take a peep at culvert pipes

By Joseph Palmersheim

Dive team leader Kyle Nicks (in the yellow shirt) helps a fellow diver into the water near a culvert under Hwy 169 south of Garrison. The dive crew, from Collins Engineering, inspected this and five other culverts as part of a MnDOT pilot program. Photo by Amy Staudinger

Organizers of a District 3 project hope to make a splash when it comes to culvert inspection.

District staff recently ran a pilot project using commercial scuba divers to inspect the inside of underwater culvert pipes. While drones can sometimes do this, the tea-like consistency of culvert water limits the use of both lighting and cameras. Unlike their robot counterparts, human divers can inspect the culvert pipes using their hands.

“Sometimes, you can’t beat a human for certain kinds of work,” said Adam Ahrndt, maintenance operations bridge engineer. “I’m pro-technology, but this was one situation where drones weren’t ready yet to get that high-quality inspection of those elusive pipes.”

Culverts, usually made of corrugated metal or reinforced concrete, run under roadways and serve as water channels.

District 3 has more than 8,400 culverts. They are typically inspected by a team of three, led by Amy Staudinger, transportation program specialist, District 3 Maintenance Operations.

Some of these culverts are always under water, even in drought, which prevents visual inspection.
Each of these culverts has a lifespan – it could need replacement in 20 years, or right now. And knowing what’s going on inside of the pipe is critical.

“They could be in great shape, or they could be ready to fall apart,” Ahrndt said.

MnDOT did trials with a remotely operated vehicle from Crow Wing County, but the speed of the water and the limited visibility didn’t produce effective results. During the trials, Vince Pikula, a transportation specialist based in Baxter who happens to be a trained diver, mused about putting a scuba diver into the pipe and doing an inspection that way.

There was one catch: MnDOT employees aren’t trained for that.

While MnDOT didn’t have diving capabilities, Collins Engineering did. A four-person dive team recently inspected six culverts in District 3. The team works on tethers, talking to one another thanks to special helmet intercoms.

Working in the dark inside of a water-filled 36-inch pipe isn’t for everyone, noted Kyle Nicks, the Collins dive crew chief.

“To be honest, not many people would enjoy it,” he said. “There’s muddy, murky water that is very dark and we cannot see anything a majority of the time. I have the utmost trust in the topside crew, backup diver and my training. No matter what situation I get myself into, I am in good hands. This confidence makes it very easy to enter just about any space and be in a comfortable and sound mindset while performing the inspection.”

These crews travel the country to do inspections. They work on everything from culverts to huge bridges.

“To know what you’re finding underwater and whether they are a common, bad or severe issue, you have to understand the structure you’re inspecting. You have to know what the common issues associated with the type of structure are, and the most common areas to look for them. The diversity and uniqueness of each job keeps my life adventurous and exciting.”

It cost around $1,500 to inspect each pipe, Ahrndt said. That’s a smaller amount than the cost of a pipe blowing out. In those cases, it can exceed $50,000 in repairs, plus inconvenience to the public.

Collins Engineering is still working on the final reports about the recent dives. Ahrndt hopes to secure funding for more dives next year, and plans to present more on the topic at the next bridge maintenance supervisors meeting.



Plow visits trunk-or-treat event in District 7

Photo: trick or treaters near a MnDOT plow truck

A MnDOT plow truck was among a handful vehicles participating in a trunk-or-treat event Friday, Oct. 29, at Snell Motors in Mankato. Participants, many in costume, were also able to sign the plow blade on the truck. Photos by Don Baker




On the Job: Kaelyn Stahovich uses chemistry to test materials

By Joseph Palmersheim

Photo: Kaelyn Stahovich near lab equipment

Kaelyn Stahovich, an analytical chemist, spends much of her work time doing quality assurance tests on products used in MnDOT projects. In this photo, she is testing concrete admixtures (natural or manufactured chemicals or additives added during concrete mixing to enhance specific properties of the concrete). Photo by Caitlin Schulz

Kaelyn Stahovich is an analytical chemist with Office of Materials and Road Research in Maplewood. This first-year employee’s duties include quality assurance on products used in MnDOT projects, such as concrete admixtures, paints and road salt. She tests for the National Transportation Product Evaluation Program, which is a materials and product testing program for several state DOTs.

What’s an average day like for you?
An average day consists of testing products and materials and ensuring they meet specifications. The testing I do varies from day to day, which keeps my job interesting. I may also assist on specialized projects or sample testing and assist in investigating unique products or issues.

How was did you discover chemistry?
I discovered chemistry my junior year in high school. I always had a passion for STEM, and with chemistry specifically, I found a science that connected with me. I majored in chemistry at the University of Minnesota and really enjoyed learning about what makes up the world around us. I really enjoy how prevalent chemistry is in everyday life, from cooking a meal to the production of plastics and other materials used every day.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my role is the variety. The scope of my position touches many facets of road construction and maintenance. I enjoy not doing the exact same thing every day. I also enjoy being able to use the different instruments we have in our lab, such the X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, which provides elemental analysis of materials. For example, it can tell what type of steel is being used. Another instrument is the auto-titrator, which chemically analyzes the concentration of a substance. It can do things like measure the purity of rock salt by measuring the amount of chloride.

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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