MnDOT Announces COVID-19 Research Funding

The COVID-19 crisis has affected every aspect of the transportation systems, with state DOTs and local agencies at the forefront of responding to changes, while continuing to meet core missions of providing safe, efficient, and effective transportation systems. To proactively respond and inform future decision-making related to COVID-19’s impact on the transportation sector, MnDOT is investing in research to answer questions specific to the impact of the COVID crisis on Minnesota’s transportation system.

In June 2020, MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation invited COVID-19 specific research proposals from academic researchers and consultants. Each proposal required a MnDOT, city or county champion.

MnDOT received a total of 25 proposals.

On July 23, 2020, MnDOT Research Steering Committee selected four collaborative research proposals for funding. The Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) is also considering funding proposals that respond to local agency needs.

Funding Awards

Understanding How the Disparate Effects of COVID-19 Are Affecting MnDOT’s Efforts at Equitable Contracting

Researcher(s): Moira Gaidzanwa (The Improve Group)

Champion(s): Kim Collins (MnDOT)

Project AdvisorMarcus Bekele (MnDOT)

Description: MnDOT purchasing has known disparities with underlying causes that include systemic and historical oppression. MnDOT has tried to correct these through programs like Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).

Several contracting barriers exist for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, which may have been exacerbated by COVID-19, such as access to capital, a shortage of PPE materials and staffing shortfalls due to workplace risks and caregiving responsibilities.

This research will explore the effects of COVID-19 on Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and identify solutions to address them in support of MnDOT’s contracting goals.

Public Engagement Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Other Disruptive Events

Researcher(s): Christine Kline (CTC & Associates)

Champion(s):Renee Raduenz (MnDOT), Stephanie Fenner (MnDOT), Jeanne Aamodt (MnDOT)

Project AdvisorMarcus Bekele (MnDOT)

Description:This project will gather best practices from other agencies and selected experts for communicating with the public about transportation and construction projects when in-person engagement is not possible. Project results are expected to:

  • Determine how Minnesota’s public engagement efforts compare other current efforts across the country.
  • Identify steps to improve local and state agency engagement with the public and stakeholders during the current and future pandemics, as well as other disruptions.
  • Consider the needs of all residents, regardless of urban or rural location, digital connectivity and technology proficiency.

COVID-19 Impacts on Speed and Safety for Rural Roads and Work Zones

Researcher(s): Shauna Hallmark and Neal Hawkins, (Iowa State University)

Champion(s):Derek Leuer (MnDOT) and Victor Lund (St. Louis County)

Project Advisor: Brent Rusco (MnDOT)

Description: According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, after Minnesota’s stay-at-home order was issued, traffic fatalities increased about 50 percent. This was at the same time traffic fell roughly 50 percent. This research project will:

  • Evaluate the impact of the pandemic on the frequency and severity of crashes across urban, small urban, and rural areas.
  • Using crash records high-risk areas and develop solutions to prevent severe crashes from happening.

Telecommuting During COVID-19: How Does It Shape the Future Workplace and Workforce?

Researcher(s): Xinyi Qian (University of Minnesota)

Champion(s):Duane Hill (MnDOT)

Project Advisor: Beth Klemann (MnDOT)

Description: This project will assess the long-term impacts of temporarily shifting the workforce to telecommuting on Minnesota workplace telecommuting policies and population migration. The study will compare differences among geographic areas and industries.

The desired outcome is data-driven, evidence-based insights for transportation planning and congestion mitigation on both state and local levels.

Visit MnDOT’s Office of Research & Innovation to learn more.

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