Thursday, May 21, 2015

MnDOT urges travelers to use caution in work zones over Memorial Day weekend

ST. PAUL, Minn. — As Memorial Day weekend approaches and summer construction roadwork around the state revs up, the Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use extra caution while driving through highway work zones.

“We will suspend work on many projects during the holiday weekend,” said Sue Mulvihill, deputy commissioner and chief engineer. “However, there are still many work zones around the state where drivers need to plan ahead, pay attention and slow down to make it a safe weekend for everyone.”

Motorists should be prepared for slower moving traffic and use extra caution in highway work zones. Plan ahead, think about alternate routes and go to www.511mn.org before you leave home to get information about road construction and detours.
Highway projects that may affect weekend travel on May 22-25 include:
Twin Cities area
·        Interstate 494 in Plymouth – multiple lane and ramp closures
·        I-35E in St. Paul and Little Canada – lane and ramp closures
·        Highway 100 in St. Louis Park – ramp closures and lane shift
·        Highway 169 in Jordan – single-lane traffic in both directions, County Road 9 access closed, detour
Central Minnesota 
·        I-94 between Rogers and St. Michael – lane shift, narrow lanes and reduced speeds
·        Highway 10 between St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids – all lanes of traffic will be open for the weekend
·        Highway 95 in Cambridge is closed over the Rum River Bridge (check 511 for width and length limits)
·        Highway 25 in Buffalo – detour

West Central Minnesota 
·        Highway 12 between Kerkhoven and Pennock -- detour
·        Highway 14 between Florence and Tyler -- detour
·        Highway 59 in Marshall – short detour
Northern Minnesota   
·        Highway 197 in Bemidji – lane closures, slow traffic
·        Highway 34 between Barnesville and Highway 59 – closed, detour
·        Highway 10 in Detroit Lakes – four lanes of traffic will be open for the weekend
·        Highway 2 (Bong Bridge) between Duluth and Superior - eastbound lanes closed, detour
Southern Minnesota    
·        I-35 Owatonna to Albert Lea single-lane traffic in both directions, slow traffic
·        Highway 63 south of Spring Valley to Iowa border – closed, detour
·        I-90 between Aldon and Highway 22 - single-lane traffic in both directions, slow traffic
For a complete list of projects, including construction dates and traffic impacts, visit www.mndot.gov/roadwork/current.html. Motorists may also sign up to receive email updates for major projects at www.mndot.gov/emailupdates.

“Drivers face many distractions under the best of conditions – and driving through construction work zones only amplifies distractions with lane changes and other unexpected variations,” said Kristine Hernandez, statewide Toward Zero Deaths coordinator. “Let’s pay attention and make this holiday weekend a safe one for everyone on the road.”
Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths is the state’s cornerstone traffic safety program that uses education, emergency medical and trauma services, enforcement and engineering approaches to reduce traffic crashes, injuries and deaths on Minnesota roads. For more information, visit www.minnesotatzd.org/
MnDOT reminds motorists to: 
·        Check www.511mn.org for up-to-date information about traffic and road conditions
·        Don’t use cell phones or text while driving
·        Follow posted speed limits; fines double in work zones
·        Expect delays, especially during peak travel times

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rummage sale signs not permitted on state highway rights of way


BEMIDJI, Minn. – Placement of rummage sale signs and other unauthorized objects in state highway rights of way is prohibited under MN State Statute 160.27, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In addition, rummage sale signs may not be placed on private property outside of the right of way limits without landowner consent.

Highway rights of way include the driving lanes, inside and outside shoulders, ditches, and sight corners at intersections.

MnDOT crews will remove any unlawfully placed signs and impound them at one of its local maintenance truck stations.

Violation of the law is a misdemeanor. Civil penalties also may apply if the placement of such material contributes to a motor vehicle crash and injures a person or damages a motor vehicle that runs off the road.

In addition, the Minnesota Outdoor Advertising Control Act (MN State Statute 173.15) prohibits erecting advertising devices on public utility poles, trees and shrubs, and painting or drawing on rocks or natural features.

MnDOT administers these laws in a fair and impartial manner. All signs, including: rummage, garage, yard, estate, realty, flea market, craft, produce, greenhouse and nursery sale are treated in the same way. Signs wrongly placed on state highway property by businesses, churches, private citizens or charitable groups will be removed.

For information regarding the proper placement of rummage sale signs or where to find signs that have been removed, contact your local MnDOT office:

Bemidji area- (218) 755-6500
Crookston area- (218) 277-7950
Thief River Falls area- (218) 683-8000

For more information on signs and other objects along highway right of way and MnDOT property, please visitwww.dot.state.mn.us/govrel/rw_signs.html.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Highway 1 detour east of Thief River Falls begins May 26



BEMIDJI, Minn. – Motorists on Highway 1 east of Thief River Falls will experience a detour beginning May 26 as crews begin work between County Highway 20 and 240th Ave NE.

The detour for eastbound motorists from Thief River Falls will follow Highway 32 south one-half mile to Highway 59, where motorists will proceed 4.5 miles southeast. Motorists will then follow Pennington County Highway 7 east for 8.1 miles to Pennington County Highway 22, where they will proceed 3 miles north to Highway 1.

Work on the project will include grading, resurfacing, culvert replacements, and the replacement of two box culverts. This project will ensure better drainage and a smoother and safer roadway for motorists in the region.

The detour and the project are anticipated to be complete by mid-June, weather permitting.
                                                                       
For statewide travel information, visit www.511mn.org.     

Monday, May 18, 2015

DNR asks lakeshore owners to report seeing endangered mudpuppy salamanders, die-offs


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking lakeshore owners and citizens to report any mudpuppy salamanders they see, especially die-offs on rivers and lakes. A die-off is defined as five or more dead salamanders in a lake at the same place at the same time.
“We have had several dead mudpuppy reports by lake residents these past few years on Big Cormorant and Melissa lakes in Becker County,” said Krista Larson, DNR nongame research biologist. “We have collected salamanders to try to determine what has been killing them, but so far, the results have been inconclusive.”

Any mudpuppies caught or found dead should be photographed and reported to krista.larson@state.mn.us, or by calling the report line at 651-259-5076.
 
In 2013, mudpuppies were added to the state’s list of endangered and threatened species as a species of special concern due to habitat loss, stream siltation and pollution, and overharvest for bait or by biological supply companies.

Many people mistakenly call tiger salamanders “mudpuppies” or “waterdogs.” In fact, mudpuppies are a separate species and the largest salamander in Minnesota. While tiger salamanders spend their early lives in water and adult lives on land, mudpuppies are Minnesota’s only fully aquatic salamander, meaning they spend their entire lives in water. 

Mudpuppies are about 13 to16 inches long, brown or grayish in color, have spots peppered along their back and sides, and a light gray or buff underside. They have small eyes, a paddle-like tail for swimming, and external gills that look like feathery projections near their head.

Tiger salamanders are 7 to 13 inches long and are black with yellow markings. They are easy to separate from mudpuppies if they are adults (lacking external gills), but the young (larval) resemble small mudpuppies.

Mudpuppies have four toes on their back feet and tiger salamanders have five toes. Additionally, mudpuppies have a back (dorsal) fin only on their tail, whereas larval tiger salamanders have a dorsal fin that goes from their tail and nearly reaches their head.

They’re found in large to medium rivers throughout Minnesota, and also in lakes around the Alexandria and Detroit Lakes area. They can be found in swift gravel-bottom streams or slow muddy rivers. They lay eggs on the undersides of rocks, sunken logs, or other underwater structures.
Research on mudpuppies and other nongame wildlife is funded by donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program and the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff on Minnesota income tax forms.

To donate to the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program or for more information about it, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/nongame/donate.
To read more about mudpuppies in the DNR’s Conservation Volunteer magazine, visit http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/mcbs/publications/mcv_magazine_mudpuppy_necturus_maculosus.pdf

Itasca State Park to begin watercraft inspections May 22



All watercraft entering Itasca State Park will be inspected starting May 22, as part of a new plan to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species in park waters, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Watercraft will be inspected at the north entrance and hours will vary. During inspection hours, all watercraft arriving at the south or east park entrances will be routed to the north entrance.

Inspectors will check to ensure boaters follow clean, drain, dispose laws and may deny access if necessary. Information will be available to visitors about what they need to do to protect Minnesota waters.
“The lakes and waters of Itasca State Park are precious resources,” said Chris Gronewold, Itasca State Park resource specialist. “Our visitors have a stake in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species in park waters, as well as all waters in the state.”
The law requires boaters to clean weeds and debris from their boats, remove drain plugs and keep them out while traveling, and dispose of unused bait in the trash.
Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny waterfleas can be easily carried from one lake to another if aquatic plants or water are left on a boat or trailer.
Some invasive species are small and difficult to see at the access. To remove or kill them before moving to another body of water, especially after leaving zebra mussel or spiny waterflea infested waters, the DNR recommends that boaters either:
  • Spray boat with high-pressure water;
  • Rinse boat with hot water (120 degrees for two minutes, or 140 degrees for 10 seconds); or
  • Dry boat and equipment for at least five days.
Watercraft inspections at Itasca State Park are a cooperative effort by the DNR Parks and Trails Division and Clearwater County, which funded the watercraft inspector positions.
More information, including a 30-second public service announcement about stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species, is available at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

MnDOT offers farmers opportunity to sign up for standing corn row program



ST. PAUL, Minn.– It may be springtime, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation already is thinking about winter. The agency is interested in talking with Minnesota farmers who are willing to leave a minimum of six rows of corn stalks stand through next winter to earn money and reduce the amount of snow blowing on state roads.

Farmers can connect with MnDOT to learn about the program and determine if they are in a location that needs snow protection. Additionally, MnDOT can help farmers look at programs that assist in planting pollinator vegetation, which provides benefits to pollinators and complements the results of standing corn rows.

The standing corn rows are part of MnDOT’s blowing snow control program, which started about 15 years ago and pays landowners to create snow fences or vegetation that hampers snow drifts.

Corn rows break the wind’s force, causing the snow to collect around the corn rows instead of drifting onto the roads. The rows improve driver visibility during “white out” conditions and improve road surface conditions, making roads safer for the traveling public and also reducing road maintenance costs.

“Standing corn rows improve driver visibility, reduce accidents and reduce the need for snow plowing,” said Shannon Wait, a MnDOT Living Snow Fence district coordinator. “They also decrease the potential of ice forming on the pavement.”

Payments are based per acre using a University of Minnesota calculator tool to determine fair compensation that factors in yield, production costs and inconvenience factors.

MnDOT looks for fields on the north and west sides of state highways and interstates where drifting is a problem. Effective corn rows need to be about 200 feet from the highway centerline. Agreements generally require farmers to leave six to 16 rows of corn in various arrangements until the end of March. Farmers may coordinate with nonprofit groups, like 4-H or Future Farmers of America, to hand-pick the corn as long as corn stalks are left in good condition.

The standing corn program is a one-year program. For more information, contact Dan Gullickson, Living Snow Fence Program coordinator, at 651 366-3610, or visit www.dot.state.mn.us/environment/livingsnowfence.

Test of North Dakota AMBER Alert

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services will conduct an annual test of the AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert system from 2-3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20. All AMBER Alert components will be tested. Advance notification is important to avoid misinterpretation of this test as an actual AMBER Alert.

            AMBER Alerts are recorded on the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s 511 Road and Weather Information System and are displayed on the NDDOT roadside message signs, the nd.gov and AMBER Alert websites, and on scrolling banners at North Dakota Lottery terminal sites. Six AMBER Alerts involving seven children have been issued in North Dakota. Six of the seven children were successfully recovered. Nationwide, AMBER Alert has been credited with the successful recovery of 767 children.

            The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the community to assist in the search for and safe return of the abductedchild. The AMBER Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, state agencies, the National Weather Service, and the North Dakota Broadcasters Association to activate an urgent bulletin in child abduction cases meeting AMBER Alert activation criteria.  NDDES, in collaboration with the NWS, uses the Emergency Alert System to provide a description of the abducted child and suspected abductor to statewide radio and television broadcast stations that disseminate the information to the public.  Please register at www.wirelessamberalerts.org to receive text notifications of actual AMBER Alerts that occur in your area.