Tips for Managing Back-To-School Traffic this Fall

By Alyson Fauske, Sr. Project Manager, WSB

COVID-19 has changed the way we do so many things in life and our children returning to school will be no exception. The school districts have designed five different scenarios to chose from for teaching our children in the 2020-2021 school year, based on the number of reported local COVID cases. Proposed options include full-time, in-person learning and hybrid learning, which have students attending in-person class two days a week. There will be challenges around getting students to school safely and efficiently. Here are five ways to help you facilitate the return of students.

Vehicle traffic to schools will likely increase due to physical distancing requirements limiting bus capacities and parents may elect to drive their student to minimize the student’s physical interaction with others. Estimate how many additional vehicles will be dropping-off/picking-up and what streets they will likely travel. Communicate with your municipality if you believe any of the nearby streets may experience increased congestion. 

Shuttle busses can be used to reduce the vehicle traffic to the school by providing shorter, more frequent trips, between the school and a nearby facility. Large commercial sites, office buildings, or parks may be good candidates for a shuttle site; be sure to check with the property owner first.  Many counties have property information mapping available on their website that can be used to determine who owns the property.

Encourage alternative modes of transportation to the school such as walking, biking, or other non-motorized methods. An added benefit is a little exercise and fresh air. 

Multi-modal transportation is an option for students that live too far from the school to walk or bike the entire way.  Parents can drive to a nearby park or place of business and the remainder of the trip to school can be on foot, bike, scooter, or other non-motorized method. 

Site circulation through the parking lot should be evaluated to determine if there is enough space for vehicles to line up for the student drop-off/pick-up location. If the need for on-site parking is reduced, consider using traffic cones and signage to mark space for additional lanes during vehicle queuing. Identify locations where students who walk or bike may encounter vehicle traffic once they are on campus and develop a plan to get them through the area as safely as possible. Ideas include using traffic cones to designate a pedestrian lane or having a staff member in a safety vest assist students into the school.

Alyson is a Senior Project Manager in WSB’s Municipal Group and the City Engineer for the City of Minnetrista. With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities.

[email protected] | 763.512.5244

Navigating Public Improvement Projects During COVID-19 – Part 2

Enjoy part two of our two part series discussing how to best manage your community during stay at home and social distancing. In this episode our team of experts share challenges and solutions to current financial conditions and project financing options. This webinar includes special guests from Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors and Ehlers Public Finance Advisors.

Activity Resource Guide for Kids

Everyone is struggling right now due to stay-at-home orders that are requiring parents to find a way to work from home, manage distance learning for their children and all of the other responsibilities that come with running a household. In an effort to make life a little easier, we have complied this list of fun and educational activities for children. We hope this helps to make this time a bit more fun for your family.

Learning at Home

Screen-Free Activities

Outdoor Activities

Exercise & Cooking

Phone Apps

Homework Help: Free Online Tutoring and More

Let’s Keep Moving

By Ron Bray, Vice President, WSB

Much like our economy, our industry has its ups and downs. These are challenging times that no one would have imagined. No industry is immune to economic disruptors, but our collective commitment to bringing stability back to infrastructure project delivery is our differentiator. We can’t predict the future, but we’ve adapted to our circumstances. We have project delivery options to fit specific timelines and needs. Delivering projects faster and getting projects on the shelf for a possible stimulus package will put you in a competitive position to benefit your constituents. Now might be the time to consider Alternative Delivery solutions for your Cooperative Local and Trunk Highway projects. Design-Build projects can advance much quicker than standard Design-Bid-Build projects. Now is the time to chat about this and other funding or project delivery opportunities.

Earlier this month, my good friend and colleague Dave Enblom explored challenges our County Engineers are facing as we navigate the fallout of COVID-19. It’s important for us to think about these challenges and find solutions that bring some stability to our industry.

Making government guidelines work for you

Consider which guidelines are affecting your operations and start implementing new procedures. Legislation or policy change may be needed to make projects work, especially streamlining the environmental permits and process. Determine the skills you need and your goals. Find ways to accomplish these goals and reorganize or reassign teams if necessary. Do you need a bigger team, but can’t make a full-time hire? Consider augmenting your staff with a part-time consultant. We can help with project management or any other areas that are understaffed. Use emerging technology to create efficiencies.

Stay connected to your teams and the public

Technology to keep public discussion moving forward is critical, it needs to be customized depending on the area of concern and whether it is a large-scale effort or one-on-one with a project stakeholder. Maintaining a healthy public conversation is vital to securing permits and gaining agency approvals. We’re seeing how team meetings can be done virtually, and face-to-face conversations can and should still occur. Use video conferencing solutions to check-in. Continue public engagement efforts to help guide decision making and move projects forward through visualizations, immersive 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality solutions. WSB’s IT and Technology staff have the expertise to assist you.

Stretch your stimulus dollars

Following past crises, significant dollars were allocated to major, high-priced infrastructure projects. Find ways to tighten project timelines by exploring efficiencies using technology. Consider using advanced data collection or reality capture tools to create reality meshes that work in Autodesk, MicroStation, and GIS. Asset management is being changed through AI systems and efficient collection of data.

Keep moving forward

We know it is going to take a team approach to move projects forward if there is a stimulus package. I have always loved how close the County Engineer’s Association is and how you work together as one voice. This is the time where our collective support of each other will allow each of our organizations to move faster and better together. 

As we continue to work through COVID-19, show compassion to your colleagues and empathy for the challenges they’re facing. Sometimes you’ll act as a resource and other times you’ll need help. It’s in our best interest to work together.

After every economic disruption or crisis, I look for the silver lining. Following the Great Recession, there was more awareness of the importance of infrastructure in our economy, and the need to proactively manage, prioritize, and invest in it. Now and in the near future, we have an opportunity as an industry to show that a combination of emerging technology and expertise will be the future of infrastructure development. We are proud to be your colleagues and we value our continued partnership to accomplish your goals and community needs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help in any way.

Be safe, stay healthy, and we will see you soon!

Ron has been a Vice President and Principal in transportation and construction services for over 37 years. He’s experienced with roadways and bridges, planning, traffic analysis, geometric layout, design of roadways and bridges, and constructions services.

[email protected] | 763.287.7177

Unpacking the molecular structure of COVID-19 through visualizations

By Jeff Christiansen, Visualization Studio Manager, WSB

The molecular structure of COVID-19 is complicated. The ectodomain, also known as a surface protein, is complex. The 3D visualization focuses on just one of the surface protein complexes that protrude from the surface of the virus. All 21,539 atoms and 20,995 bonds visualized show how the attachment mechanism connects to the host cell. You’ve probably seen various generic models all over the news, but nothing compares to the actual molecular structure. Knowledge of this structure is helping researchers define and design proper pharmaceutical responses.

To create this visualization, data was pulled from the Worldwide Protein Data Bank. Developed using advanced visualization tools, expertise and software, the visualization is an accurate portrayal of COVID-19 that shows how complex the virus actually is.

Jeff is a visualization studio manager with more than 22 years of experience with many types of visualization projects, including over 400 miles of roadway with design elements that include five-level interchanges, bridge aesthetics, and complex roundabouts. He is an experienced project manager in the development and final production of disparate visualizations for municipal, state, and federal projects.

Jeff Christiansen [email protected] 214.789.0538