MnDOT looking to upgrade infrastructure for climate resiliency after record snowfall
Federal funds will help local MnDOT districts to plan and upgrade infrastructure to handle increased snowfall and temperature variations.
WILLMAR — This past winter will go down as one of the top 10 in terms of total snowfall, but snowplow operators will remember it for much more.
Winter rain days increased, and snowplow operators dealt with rain, ice and heavy wet snows — along with temperature variations and winds — like few other winters in recent history.
“This year was one of the warmest and snowiest winters on record,” Brian Shekleton told members of the Willmar District Area Transportation Partnership on April 7. “Snowplow operators are managing stuff they never had to in the past.”
And they are expected to be dealing with a lot more of this in the future as the climate changes, according to Shekleton, who is the principal climate and resilience planner in the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s sustainability office.
New federal funding is being made available to MnDOT districts across the state for planning and projects to build more climate resiliency in the infrastructure for changes the state is expected to experience in the years ahead, he told the local district’s advisory group.
Overall, Minnesota will be receiving $23 million annually from a $478 million national allocation. That translates to an expected $500,000 for MnDOT’s District 8 in southwest Minnesota.
“It’s not enough to really do those landmark projects we often times would hope to do,” Shekleton said.
Still, he encouraged the local Area Transportation Partnership to take advantage of the funding and help MnDOT identify how best to improve existing infrastructure to be more resilient. MnDOT is eager “to get a sense of what’s out there that needs work,” he said.
Many of the potential projects first coming to MnDOT’s attention pertain to managing water. Shekleton pointed to a 1970s-era culvert on Interstate 90 on the northwest corner of Worthington. It was sized at a time when the frequency of major rain events and the total precipitation were lower.
Local Area Transportation Partnership members expressed interest in the funding, but also voiced their concerns. Since the funds are from the federal government, they are subject to a variety of requirements, including review by a variety of agencies. A preference is also given to funding projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.
Sam Muntean, Lac qui Parle County engineer, told Shekleton that his county has a potential project that would fit the goals of the new funding. But he noted that it would be difficult for him and others to devote the amount of time needed to prepare applications for funding when the amount available is not large and there are the complexities and risks that come with applying for federal monies.