TH 169 Visualization

WSB Named Finalist for the 2022 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure

WSB was named a finalist in the Enterprise Engineering category for Bentley System’s 2022 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure. The projects nominated for the Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure are judged by an independent panel of jurors, using criteria specific to each category. The finalists demonstrate excellence and digital advancements in their respective award category.  Bentley Systems is a software development company that develops, manufactures, licenses, sells and supports computer software and services for the design, construction, and operation of infrastructure.

The Enterprise Engineering category recognizes organizations that have demonstrated excellence and innovation in digital collaboration, information management, information mobility, or content management through implementing digital workflows for improved outcomes on a specific design project(s) or broadly across the organization.

The Project

As part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT’s) TH 169: Redefine Elk River initiative to support the roadway’s lifecycle management and long-term maintenance, the project team  wanted to share complex 3D model information between design, construction, and asset management teams. The team faced challenges updating the design model with the construction data, as well as integrating the information with asset management systems. They needed an open digital platform to integrate all data without losing valuable information.

Leveraging Bentley’s solutions WSB imported the data from MnDOT and other asset management systems into the design models and integrated them with the construction process data. Bentley applications reduced costs and resource hours while delivering the as-built model. The proof of concept demonstrates the value of a digital twin, providing teal-time insight on the performance of 12 MnDOT asset classes for easier lifecycle maintenance and saving millions on project scoping assignments by identifying asset needs.

Check out the full list of finalists here: 2022 Going Digital Awards Finalists | Bentley Systems

Equity Capacity

Equity Capacity Building Using the Infrastructure Bill

By Bridget Rathsack, Program Manager and Eric Zweber, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Communities across the country see big opportunities around the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill. With this funding, there is a real opportunity for communities to invest in projects for low-income and traditionally underserved communities and advance sizable projects that create a better community for all. Including equity capacity building in infrastructure project planning will not only enhance local communities and benefit residents, but it can also give projects a competitive edge in securing dollars as communities compete for funding.   

Here are some ways that communities should be thinking about building equity into their projects.

Understand the Needs of the Community & Those You are Working to Serve

As leaders look at the needs in their communities, it is critical that investments are made in a way that is not only smart and helps add value to communities, but that also shows they are listening to the voices of residents who are impacted by these projects and including them in the decision-making process.

When community leaders work with stakeholders to build consensus, it ensures they are building projects that improve equitable outcomes and make them more competitive for grants and funding to advance the projects. Tribal communities, for example, have been disproportionately impacted by natural resource extraction and land development. Low income and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities often lack adequate investments in everything from transportation infrastructure to community development. Building relationships and trust with impacted communities is central to this work and can help advance the goals of all stakeholders involved when done in a meaningful fashion.

Bringing an Equity Lens to Different Types of Projects

Equity capacity building can be brought into may kinds of projects and there are three big categories to consider when thinking about advancing equity using the Infrastructure Bill:

  1. Improving access and accessibility to infrastructure for people of all abilities; including public transit, transportation access, and modifying infrastructure to meet current standards and management best practices.
  2. Investing in projects where there is a high percentage of BIPOC or low-income population.
  3. Advancing priorities for indigenous communities that elevate equity, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

Whatever type of project you are working on, understanding how it advances equity and how to communicate that can help secure funding and move it forward.

Comprehensive Plans & Big Picture Thinking

A community comprehensive plan brings together leaders and stakeholders to look forward at population growth and development opportunities to create a vision for the future. Plans need to be forward-looking, while also flexible enough to meet changing demands as communities grow and change. Equity and sustainability are important elements to consider and weave into community planning.

What’s more, community plans often include big projects and changes that can drive meaningful community progress. However, sometimes resources are limited or other projects take precedence. With the massive investment in infrastructure from the federal government, this is a chance for communities to look at their comprehensive plan and move the big picture projects with long-term benefits forward.

This is a unique opportunity to go after projects that build equity and will positively impact communities and citizens for decades to come.

How WSB Can Help

Whether it’s reviewing and updating community comprehensive plans, using community engagement, designing, writing grant applications, or seeking out partners to support your project, WSB has a team of experts who can help your community navigate and execute on projects that improve your community and build equity capacity.

The infrastructure bill is a once in a generation funding opportunity, and a chance for local leaders to fund big, bold projects that will benefit communities for generations to come.

Bridget serves as the Sustainability Program Manager at WSB, helping propel sustainability projects and opportunities forward for our clients to reduce costs while meeting their community and stakeholder needs. She has led the Sustainability Growth Coalition at Environmental Initiative and served as chair of the St. Louis Park, MN Environment and Sustainability Commission, moving forward progress on climate and energy, while engaging community members and business leaders.

[email protected] | 920.202.0234

Eric has over 20 years experience with community planning, renewable energy, and sustainability projects. He has worked cooperatively with a number renewable energies developers to develop both solar and wind resources and is a past board member of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industrial Association (MnSEIA). He has a passion for sustainable and resilient practices to address the needs of communities and larger public.

[email protected] | 612.581.0504

Wastewater treatment

Top 5 Challenges Wastewater Utilities Are Facing Today

By Ursinio Puga, Professional Engineer, WSB

Managing local water and wastewater systems can be a complicated and challenging task that has a huge impact on residents and local businesses. Waiting to find solutions just isn’t an option. Below we discuss the top five challenges facing city wastewater systems today. Addressing these challenges before they become a real problem is key to continued success in your community.

Aging Infrastructure: The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave our nationwide infrastructure (including wastewater treatment plants) a D+ grade. Minnesota wastewater treatment facilities are not immune to the aging infrastructure issue. Wastewater treatment facilities generally have a design life of 20-years. The need to start planning for repair and replacement of facilities is a continuous cycle.

Funding: Utilities know upgrades are needed due to growth and capacity limitations, aging infrastructure, and new effluent limits. Funding sources in Minnesota for improvement projects include Public Facilities Authority (PFA) low interest loans and new limits are typically eligible for Point Source Implementation Grants (PSIG). The best funding option for each facility will depend on its unique situation. It is important that utilities manage connection fees and user rates appropriately to ensure funds are available to pay for improvements.

Effluent Limits:  Ever evolving effluent limits are a constant challenge for wastewater utilities. Wastewater facilities in Minnesota are receiving stringent effluent phosphorus, total nitrogen, total dissolved solids (TDS), and chloride limits. Each of these limits typically require upgrades or additional processes to the wastewater facility. A unique situation for utilities is the lower chloride effluent limit. This may require upgrades to a community’s drinking water treatment plant to provide softened water to users so that chlorides are not added to wastewater streams by private water softeners.

Biosolids Handling:  Biosolids are very challenging to treat and dispose of for any wastewater facility.  The processing of biosolids generally depends on available resources/funding at the utility and the staffing levels of wastewater operators. Stringent effluent limits such as lower phosphorus limits are significantly increasing the volume of biosolids generated at wastewater treatment facilities.  Emerging PFAS regulations are adding further challenges to the final disposal of biosolids from wastewater treatment facilities.

Operations Personnel:  Like many industries, the wastewater treatment industry has been greatly impacted by a shortage of operations staff. This shortage of operations staff is due to an aging work force retiring and smaller numbers of replacement staff entering the operations field. The shortage of operations staff is also enhanced by reclassification of wastewater treatment facilities to Class A and B facilities to meet stringent effluent limits. Utilities need to plan accordingly to minimize impacts from operational staff shortages by promoting education, training, and advancement of operation staff. Utilities must also implement a staff retention plan or engage with an outside consultant to maintain or increase their staffing levels.

WSB’s team of experts are available to help with any or all the wastewater challenges discussed here. We leverage and advance technology to provide system assessments, facility plans, funding services, engineering design, construction administration and observation, and on-going personnel support for wastewater systems. 

Ursinio provides infrastructure planning, modeling, design, bidding, and construction administration services to both industrial and municipal clients across the Midwest. He has extensive experience in a wide variety of treatment pilot projects ranging from biological filtration of drinking water to UV disinfection of wastewater.

[email protected] | 612.499.9018

TH 169

MnDOT’s Corridors of Commerce program: What’s New in 2022

By Mary Gute, Sr. Transportation Planner, WSB

A healthy economy is dependent upon an efficient transportation system. To foster economic and commercial growth across our state, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) Corridors of Commerce program is now open for applications. The program helps communities make highway capacity improvements where there are bottlenecks, as well as improve the movement of freight and other barriers to commerce. 

The Project Recommendation Process and What’s New in 2022

MnDOT will determine program recipients using an online recommendation process. 2022 has some additional requirements and new guidelines as well. Here are some important details regarding what is new for submitting a proposal for consideration. 

Who can submit a proposal? As of this year, only an individual acting as an official representative of one of the qualifying organizations below may submit a project for consideration. 

  • An area transportation partnership
  • Any city, county, or township in Minnesota
  • Any tribal government in Minnesota
  • Any corridor coalition which is formally organized as a not-for-profit organization.
  • Any metropolitan planning organization
  • Any regional development organization

Additionally, each organization is limited to submitting one project recommendation per cycle. 

Provide cost estimates and funding details. Make sure your project has a leg up by laying out funding resources and cost estimates. New requirements for this year include a detailed project description that corresponds to identified cost estimates, as well as a cost estimate reviewed and agreed to by a State of Minnesota licensed engineer. Any other committed funding sources must also be identified along with the name and contact for those sources.  

Make sure your project scores well upon review. Your project was submitted online and met all the eligibility and project recommendation requirements. How to ensure your project stands out? State law requires that projects be scored based on the following criteria, so make sure to highlight:

  • Return on investment with a focus on travel time reduction and/or an anticipated reduction crashes.
  • Economic competitiveness that is measurable in its impact on job growth and direct and indirect economic development.
  • Freight efficiency measurements including time travel savings, average daily heavy commercial travel, and travel reliability. 
  • Safety criteria, which impacts multiple scoring areas, focused on 5-year averages of crashes, injuries, and fatalities. 
  • Regional connections including to area commercial trade hubs, highway systems, and to other transportation modes like ship, air, and rail. 
  • Policy objectives with an emphasis on transparent decision making, system stewardship, and healthy communities. 
  • Community consensus, providing resolutions and/or letters of support from municipalities and counties touched by the project, local planning agencies, and a chamber of commerce. 
  • Regional balance to ensure that projects across the state and various regions can tap into opportunities to foster economic development, growth, and commerce through the Corridors of Commerce program. 

By looking ahead and factoring the scoring process into your project planning and ensuring that your project meets all the requirements, you can increase the likelihood of your project being selected. Projects with the highest scores will receive funding first, with exceptions for regional balance which may result in some lower scoring projects taking precedence. 

Project Eligibility

The first step is to explore project eligibility requirements and ensure your project can rise to the top of the selection process. From MnDOT, here is a review of the basic requirements needed for your project.

  1. The project must be classified as either develop additional system capacity or improve freight movement.
  2. Projects must be in line with and adhere to MnDOT’s Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan.
  3. Projects must be able to begin construction within 4 years of being awarded funding, but the actual construction start may be delayed beyond 4 years to avoid significant impacts to the traveling public.
  4. Projects must be on the Interregional Corridor Network in Greater Minnesota or a state highway in the eight-county MnDOT Metropolitan District.
  5. The amount of corridors of commerce funding needed to construct the project cannot exceed the amount of funding available. 
  6. A project that is listed in MnDOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is not eligible for funding, unless the project was listed in the STIP because it previously received funding.

Are you considering applying for the Corridors of Commerce funding? Applications are due November 30. 

Corridors of Commerce is a highly competitive program and bringing in outside experts who are well-versed in applying for and receiving funding can help ensure that you are set up for success.

Mary has 20 years of progressively complex transportation planning and project management experience, gained from working on a variety of transportation projects for modes including roads/bridge, transit, and trails. Several these projects have included environmental documentation considerations – either pre-NEPA, or through NEPA and/or MEPA processes.

[email protected] | 612.741.7055