March 13, 2024
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Updates coming soon for State Digital Accessibility Standard

By Emily Lu, Office of Administration

Decorative element - graphic of a computer screen with WCAG 2.0 written on it

The State of Minnesota will update the State Digital Accessibility Standard on July 1, 2024.

The Standard update includes the addition of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, Level AA, which is a set of worldwide web standards set by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure accessible websites for everyone. The Standard touches on many different topics, including best practices for using PDFs, proper contrast in web graphics, video accessibility and much more.

This update will impact all executive branch agencies and their employees, so it’s important to take the time to review this information, understand how your role is impacted and take the role-based training to be familiar with how the updated standard impacts your work.

To learn more about this updated Standard and what you can do to get ready for WCAG 2.1, visit the MnDOT Accessibility SharePoint site.

If you have any questions about the WCAG 2.1 update or general inquiries about accessibility, please contact Emily Lu, MnDOT's Digital Accessibility Coordinator.



New library materials now available

By Madeline Kuncio, MnDOT Library

The latest issue of New Library Materials is available.  This month’s collection close-up book isThe Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth,” by Amy C. Edmondson. This book is the Equity and Diversity reading recommendation for March and April.

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



On the Job: Katie Hanson helps keep FIRST running

By Doug Mack

Photo of Katie Hanson

Katie Hanson.

MnDOT’S Freeway Incident Response Safety Team, better known as FIRST, helps drivers on more than 200 miles of freeways around the Twin Cities metro area. It’s a job that requires excellent customer service and an array of skills. As FIRST supervisor, Katie Hanson leads the team and is involved in all aspects of the job, from the shop to the field.

How long have you been at MnDOT?
8.5 years. I have been a FIRST supervisor for 10 months and prior to that I was a FIRST driver. I have also spent time working in construction and freeway operations.

Give us a quick overview of FIRST and its role, as well as how it fits into the broader work of MnDOT.
The primary duty is to minimize congestion and prevent secondary crashes through the quick response and removal of incidents. FIRST drivers assist with traffic control, emergency first aid and medicals, tire changes and easy roadside repairs. Drivers carry fuel, coolant, jump boxes, air compressors, tire change tools and tow straps, as well as Sawzalls, wire, crash tape, first aid kits and defibrillators.

We are often out with people when they are having a bad day and they are usually very happy to see that yellow truck pull up behind them. We try to get their problem solved quickly and get them on their way. If we can do so without them having to wait and pay for a tow truck, they are usually even more appreciative. In doing our job to minimize congestion, we also provide good public relations for MnDOT.

What are your personal day-to-day tasks?
That varies on a daily basis. It might include scheduling, training, working in the shop, coordinating vehicle repairs, picking up trash outside the shop, assisting in freeway operations, equipment maintenance, ordering and picking up supplies, attending meetings, assisting with traffic control on large events and dealing with whatever else pops up.

What the most challenging and rewarding parts of your job?
The most challenging is finding enough time in the day, especially when "emergencies" pop up on an especially busy day. The most rewarding is working with a group of people who enjoy their jobs as well as helping people.

Is there anything about your job that might surprise other people (either inside or outside MnDOT)?
One thing people seem surprised at is how close-knit our shop is. When your life and safety depend on your partners, whether other FIRST drivers or state patrol, there is more trust  and camaraderie than in normal work conditions. We are more like a family – a slightly dysfunctional family, but family nonetheless. FIRST drivers often work more closely with the troopers in their areas than even other FIRST trucks, so we build close working relationships with them as well.

What are your interests or hobbies outside your work with MnDOT?
Training and riding my two Spanish Mustangs. I participate in mounted search and rescue and enjoy horse camping.

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:



STEM event engages youth in construction and transportation careers

By Adrienne Bond, Office of Civil Rights

Marcia Lochner, MnDOT STEM Education and Outreach Program Manager, speaks to three students about career opportunities with MNDOT at the Construct Tomorrow Event in Brooklyn Center. Photo by Adrienne Bond

Valentine’s Day was extra sweet this year for hundreds of students from around the Twin Cities area, as they took part in the Construct Tomorrow event at the Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, where they learned about careers in the trades and transportation.

MnDOT was one of the sponsors for the event, through a grant from the Office of Civil Rights, in partnership with the Building Strong Communities Apprenticeship Readiness program. MnDOT STEM representatives, human resources professionals and survey crew were all in attendance, talking to interested students about career opportunities with MnDOT beyond high school.

Career opportunities in construction and transportation are projected to grow over the next two years, but Minnesota is experiencing a tight labor market. Diversifying the workforce is key to supporting this growth. By reaching out to students and bringing career awareness into communities, MnDOT works to expand the talent pool of candidates entering these professions.

MnDOT’s STEM program dedicates its time to building relationships with schools and encouraging and mentoring the next generation of civil engineers and technicians. This is done through conducting outreach at events like Construct Tomorrow and by providing STEM curriculum and career awareness to teachers, students and others. MnDOT’s Phoenix program, a paid work experience for students entering their senior year of high school, also participated the event. The Phoenix program has opportunities across different departments for interested students to be exposed to career opportunities, and is actively recruiting participants for this summer.

MnDOT Civil Rights workforce training programs in highway construction trades are developed to promote women, BIPOC and underrepresented individuals entering the construction trades. These programs are offered at no cost to participants. This workforce training program also prepares participants to enter MnDOT’s on-the-job training program, which focuses on helping women, BIPOC and disadvantaged individuals complete apprenticeships in the trade and move toward journey-level status.

MnDOT has partnered with Building Strong Communities over the past two years to train individuals in the north metro in their apprenticeship readiness program and bring the Construct Tomorrow event to Brooklyn Center.



District 7 staff present at New Ulm Farm Show

Bailey Wolff and Todd Kjolstad, District 7 construction supervisors, presented information on construction of a new roundabout at Hwy 14/Highland Ave. in New Ulm at the New Ulm Farm Show on March 8. Construction of the roundabout is expected to begin in May. Photo by Doris Degenstein

History highlight: Staff photograph, 1958

A black and white photograph of about 200 people, linked up in several rows

A staff photo of the Minnesota Highway Department, Safety Division, taken outside the office building in St. Paul on June 5, 1958. Photo via Minnesota Digital Library

Name That Place Puzzler #21

By Doug Mack

Photo of a roadway

Can you name the place pictured above? If you think you know the answer, email Newsline editor Doug Mack. The first three people to submit the correct answer will receive the fame and glory of having their names listed in the next issue of Newsline.

Answer to the last Puzzler: I-90 in Austin. 
The first people to get it right were Dave Larson (Office of Materials and Research), Ryan Barney (District 8), Brian Sachs (Office of Transportation System Management) and Derek Leuer (Office of Traffic Engineering). Congrats to them and thanks to everyone who played!

Map image


Celebrating International Women’s Day with SWAT

By Micaela Kranz, MnDOT Office of Research & Innovation

Group photo in front of a wind turbine blade

SWAT members pose in front of a windmill blade during a group tour of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in 2019. 

March 8 was International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year, the United Nations’ theme was “Invest in women: Accelerate progress,” declaring, “Achieving gender equality and women’s wellbeing in all aspects of life is more crucial than ever if we want to create prosperous economies and a healthy planet.”

Women have long played important roles in improving transportation and travel

Here are just a few examples of the inspirational women who’ve pioneered different aspects of transportation:

  • Safety: Mary Anderson invented a windshield wiper to improve safety while driving in rain, sleet and snow. By 1923, more than 175 patents were granted to women for inventions related to automobiles, traffic signals and turn indicators.
  • Aviation: In 1911, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to be a licensed pilot. In 1921, Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman pilot. However, the most famous early woman aviator was Amelia Earhart, who piloted across the Atlantic in 1932. She later died during an attempt to circumnavigate the world.
  • Leadership: By the late 1970s and early 1980s, women were taking greater leadership roles in transportation. Elizabeth Dole was appointed Secretary of Transportation in 1983. In the same year, Carmen Turner became the General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
  • Space: The year 1983 was also a turning point for women in space travel. Although American women were included in astronaut training as early as 1959, it was not until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. In 1996, Astronaut Shannon Lucid set the U.S. record for continuous time in space (188 days and 4 hours).

Visit the Federal Highway Administration’s Women’s History in Transportation History to learn more about the women who have shaped transportation and continue to do so today.

At MnDOT, the SWAT ERG is working to achieve gender equity within the agency by maximizing all women’s potential to further the agency’s mission and vision.

The Strategic Women Advancing Transportation (SWAT) Employee Resource Group (ERG) was formed in 2013 and is advancing efforts including gender equity in hiring and retention, creating diverse career paths for women and providing leadership development and training for women at all levels.

In addition to bimonthly meetings, SWAT facilitates an annual professional development day, community events and mentorship opportunities. There are plenty of opportunities to make connections and get involved!

If you’re interested in joining SWAT as a member or ally, reach out to Frida Alvarez.

Learn more about Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

  • What is an ERG?They are groups of MnDOT employees from traditionally underrepresented groups, who meet to support each other in the workplace and to aid the organization in four focus areas: professional development, recruitment, retention and community outreach.
  • Why does MnDOT have ERGs? MnDOT recognizes the many benefits of cultivating and encouraging a diverse pool of employees. In fact, an inclusive workplace culture that builds on the unique perspectives and strengths of all employees is critical to attracting and retaining talent in MnDOT and across the state. ERGs help build this inclusive workplace culture and offer employees the support they need to thrive.
  • What does an ERG do? ERGs hold regular group meetings, as well as hosting agency-wide events (such as Lunch & Learns) to inform and educate MnDOT employees about the group’s area of focus. ERGs also partner with community groups and organizations to attend public events.
  • Who is part of an ERG? Groups are composed of members and allies. An ally is someone who supports a group other than one's own (in terms of racial identity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) and works towards respectful equitable relationships in the workplace.
  • What ERGs does MnDOT have? The agency has nine active ERGs, based on veteran status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity/national origin, disability or gender.
  • What kind of commitment is involved? In general, ERG members/allies can plan to spend about six hours per month during work time on ERG efforts. Final approval to participate during work hours lies with the individual’s supervisor and/or manager—employees must get their approval before participating.
  • Learn more about each group, and ERGs in general, on iHUB.


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