As we celebrate our history and take pride in our nation this July 4th, the Dayton Administration and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) encourage Minnesotans to take extra care and caution while behind the wheel.
In Minnesota, July 4th has been the deadliest day on the road for the last three years, resulting in 15 traffic deaths over the 24-hour period. “The spike in drinking and driving deaths during the Fourth of July is a clear and simple reminder why Minnesotans need to plan ahead for a sober ride” says Donna Berger, director of the DPS Office of Traffic Safety. During the holiday travel period, 66 percent of traffic deaths are a result of drunk driving.
With a stated mission “to create a culture for which traffic fatalities and serious injuries are no longer acceptable,” The DPS, along with the Departments of Health and Transportation, the State Patrol, and others, have started the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) initiative which works through “education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency medical and trauma services” to improve road safety for Minnesota citizens.
On Tuesday, June 26, Governor Mark Dayton announced plans for a new, three-part safety upgrade to U.S. Highway 14 in south central Minnesota, between North Mankato and Nicollet, MN. The plan includes taking immediate action to improve safety conditions on the road as well as a commitment by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to expand the length of highway to four lanes.
The three-part strategy is already underway in its first stage, which involves increased traffic enforcement in an effort to reduce the dangerous driving behavior that has typically occured on the highway. The second phase of the plan calls for the construction of a widened median, which will create a safer buffer between the current two lanes of the highway. Finally, the last phase of the project will be to expand the stretch of Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet into four lanes of traffic. Construction on this final phase is expected to begin in about five years, with a total cost for the three phases of the project being roughly $21.5 – 35 million.
“This segment of Highway 14 has proven to be particularly dangerous, and today’s actions will be important steps to reduce both congestion and accidents,” said Governor Dayton. “I remain committed to making Highway 14 a four-lane highway ‘from border to border’ (Minnesota’s western border to its eastern border).”
This past Tuesday, June 12, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon showed her support for University Avenue’s locally-owned businesses when she attended “Lunch on the Avenue” at Ngon’s Bistro. Lieutenant Governor Solon met with business leaders from the Midway area including Midway Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Paul McGinley and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Met Council. Others who attended include Robert McPherson, an insurance risk consultant with Western Insurance Agency in St. Paul and Chris Ferguson, President and CEO of Bywater Business Solutions in Minneapolis.
Over the course of the last several years, the Metropolitan Council has transformed itself into a leaner, greener government agency. Metro Transit’s “Go Greener” campaign has been the most visible facet of the Council’s transformation, but Metro Transit’s efforts are only a few of the agency’s award winning green initiatives.
The Metropolitan Council’s Environmental Services Division, responsible for handling waste water in the Metro area, is leading the way in making the Metropolitan Council a greener agency. The division has reduced its energy consumption by cleaning equipment more regularly, replacing old equipment with new, energy efficient equipment, and exploring ways to use the heat released during the treatment process for energy. In addition, Xcel Energy has recognized the Environmental Services Division with a Gold Award for achieving the highest electrical savings of all the utility’s large commercial and industrial customers in Minnesota between January 2010 and June 2011.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation today announced its 2012 construction program, which will include 316 economy-boosting projects in the Metro and in Greater Minnesota. This year's state highway construction projects include work on the Interstate I-694/Highway 10 interchange in the Twin Cities and completion of construction on I-35 in Duluth. Other projects will improve safety at railroad crossings, repair weather-damaged seawalls and docks, and repair runways and terminals at regional airports.
“MnDOT is focused on improving our highways and maximizing the capacity of the system,” said Commissioner Tom Sorel. “Our transportation system is vital to the state’s economy and to its citizens’ quality of life. We want to ensure that it provides a safe and efficient trip for all users.”
With diesel fuel prices climbing to $4 per gallon, there's now a loan program that can help Minnesota long-haul truckers save money, stay cool this summer, and reduce pollution on overnight rest stops.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers low, 4 percent loans to owner-operated long-haul truckers and small trucking companies to purchase idle-reduction devices. These auxiliary power units, or APUs, are either small, 15-horsepower diesel engines or battery pack systems that can run air conditioning, heaters and electricity to power laptops while the truck’s main engine is shut off.
A new study by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shows 68 lives and over 300 injuries have been avoided in Minnesota thanks to the state’s 2009 Primary Seat Belt Law. Under the primary seat belt law, officers can ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt without any other law being broken. Since the law went into effect, observed seatbelt use in the state has risen from 87 percent in 2008 to 93 percent in 2011.
“The findings of this study remind us again how vital it is for Minnesotans to buckle up — every seat, every ride,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. Seatbelt use reduces the risk of fatal injury in a passenger automobile by 45 percent. Unbuckled motorists are six times more likely to be injured in an accident than motorists wearing seat belts. Minnesotans that are least likely to buckle up and more likely to die in crashes are young drivers. This group represents only 24 percent of licensed drivers in Minnesota, yet they account for half of serious unbelted injuries.
The study by the Department of Public Safety showed 70 percent of Minnesota motorists are in favor of the Primary Seatbelt Law, up from 62 percent just before the law was passed. As more motorists use seatbelts, the drop in injuries is also saving the state money. $45 million in hospital bills have been avoided thanks to motorists using their seatbelts.
“As Minnesota continues its efforts to move roadway deaths towards zero, this research shows that seat belts are a critical tool in that effort,” said MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel. It’s important that every Minnesota motorist remembers to use a seatbelt. Buckling is the easiest, least expensive way to help lower traffic deaths in Minnesota.
This week, we saw the real results that can be achieved by a Governor who has an unwavering commitment to putting Minnesotans back to work. This week was full of encouraging developments for Minnesotans who are looking for work, in large part to the efforts of Governor Dayton and his administration.
On Tuesday, we found out that there are nearly 50,000 vacant jobs in our state, an increase of almost 50% from this time last year. While there is still work to be done to ensure that our workforce has the skills they need to fill those jobs, the most recent job vacancy survey released by DEED this week is reason to be hopeful.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the legislature finally held hearings on the Governor’s jobs proposals. His tax credit for hiring unemployed Minnesotans, veterans and recent graduates would put up to 10,000 people back to work by providing tax incentives to businesses. The Governor’s proposed expansion of FastTRAC was also heard. Expanding FastTRAC statewide will be crucial in ensuring that our state’s workers have the skills they need to fill the jobs that are available now and in the future.
Getting Minnesota Back to Work
- Under the Governor’s leadership Minnesota continues to outpace the national economic recovery. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is 5.9 percent, compared to 8.6 percent for the rest of the country. There are 53,000 more Minnesotans at work now, compared to the bottom of the recession.
- Governor Dayton worked to pass a $500 million bonding bill, putting thousands of Minnesotans back to work improving bridges, roads and infrastructure.
When it comes to government reform in Minnesota, an important way the state’s numerous government agencies can provide better services to Minnesota citizens is through collaboration. Take for example, a recent collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
When MnDOT construction contractors sought permitting for state highway projects that involved the replacement of bridges and culverts located within public waters, the DNR’s involvement was needed to ensure these projects complied with environmental regulations, in addition to the MnDOT project regulations. Working through two different permitting processes and two sets of regulations can often cause unneeded delays.
To address this, the agencies formed an interagency collaboration and developed a Best Practices guidance manual that outlined the permitting regulations for both agencies. This has resulted in increased environmental compliance, more consistent and simpler permitting, and reduced delays for MnDOT project timelines.