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MNDOT looks back on project, program highlights of 2011

Several transportation projects, programs and initiatives implemented in 2011 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation improved safety for the traveling public and the overall quality of life for Minnesotans, according to the agency.

"In 2011, we worked closer toward our goal of building and maintaining a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation system that improves Minnesotans' quality of life, helps the economy and respects the natural environment," said MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel.

Here's a look at some transportation highlights from 2011:

Traffic deaths declining--There have been 346 traffic deaths in 2011 as of Dec. 30, compared to 397 at the same time last year. If the final 2011 count stays below 397, it will mark the fourth consecutive year traffic deaths have dropped. In May, officials for Minnesota's Toward Zero Deaths program announced new traffic safety goals for the state - 350 or fewer deaths by the end of 2014, as well as 850 or fewer serious injuries in the same year. .

National safety recognition--The Federal Highway Administration and Roadway Safety Foundation awarded MnDOT with two National Roadway Safety Awards in November that recognize excellence in roadway design, operations, planning and safety. .

Better Roads for a Better Minnesota--Minnesotans will experience smoother rides on more than 700 miles of state highways under the Better Roads for a Better Minnesota infrastructure improvement program announced in May by Gov. Mark Dayton and Commissioner Tom Sorel. The four-year program, aimed at improving existing highways determined to be in 'poor' condition, will result in approximately 9,900 direct and indirect, private sector jobs across the state. .

Transportation vision for generations--Ensuring accessibility, building to a maintainable scale and connecting key regional centers are among the guiding principles that form the state's new 50-year vision for transportation, which will be the basis for all future multimodal transportation plans. The Minnesota GO vision is the result of months of work that included input from the public and diverse representatives of the transportation industry. .

High-profile project completion-- The majority of work on the Interstate 35 Mega Project in Duluth and Highway 169 Triangle project in the northwestern Twin Cities Metro Area wrapped up this year. The projects were among 258 state highway and bridge projects under construction in 2011.

• The substantially completed I-35 Mega Project includes two miles of new concrete pavement, five miles of repaired concrete pavement, total replacement of three 1,000-foot-long bridges, improvements and repairs to 40 other bridges, ramp reconstruction work and the installation of 39 new tower lights that replaced more than 300 individual lights. Improvements will provide motorists with a safer, smoother ride for many years to come.

• The Highway 169 Triangle project in Brooklyn Park and Osseo converted the existing intersection at Hennepin County Road 81 and 85th Avenue into an interchange, reducing congestion and improving safety for northwestern Twin Cities motorists.

For a list of recently completed projects, visit; ongoing projects, visit; and future projects, visit .

Minnesota ranked fourth most bicycle friendly state--The League of American Bicyclists announced in May that Minnesota retained its spot as the fourth most bicycle friendly state in the nation. The state first achieved its ranking in 2010 and has held the number five slot in both 2008 and 2009. .

Mileage-based user fee--MnDOT began recruiting 500 motorists from Wright and Hennepin counties in May to test technology that could someday be used to collect a mileage-based user fee. The research will provide feedback about the effectiveness of using technology in a car or truck to gather mileage information. MnDOT is researching alternative financing methods today that could be used 10 or 20 years from now when the number of fuel efficient and hybrid cars increase and no longer produce enough revenue from a gas tax to build and repair roads. .

Hiring of women, minorities shows improvement--The number of minority and women workers, as well as disadvantaged businesses, employed on transportation construction projects, has steadily increased during the past three years. Statistics show that 3,200 workers were employed on federally funded state transportation construction projects during the peak period in August 2011. Of these, 272 workers were minorities (8.5 percent of the workforce), up from 168 (7.5 percent) in 2010 and 114 (6.1 percent) in 2009. In addition, there were 143 women (4.5 percent) hired in 2011, compared to 87 (3.9 percent) in 2010 and 62 (3.3 percent) in 2009. .

MnPASS Express Lanes--Two additional miles of MnPASS Express Lanes on northbound I-35W opened to motorists in October between Burnsville Parkway and Southcross Drive--just north of the I-35W/I-35E split. The express lanes move 50 percent more people than regular lanes and provide transit riders faster, congestion-free service because buses can always use the lane. .

Bridge safety, snow and ice removal--Traffic fatalities are declining and bridge conditions are improving, according to the Annual Minnesota Transportation Performance Report released in September. The report provides measures of various aspects of Minnesota's transportation system, indicating areas where the system is working well and areas where it is not meeting performance targets. .

For more information about MnDOT, visit .