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Minnesota receives two national awards for roadway safety programs

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation received two National Roadway Safety Awards from the Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation. The awards recognize agencies that exhibit excellence in roadway design, operations, planning and safety.

One award recognized MnDOT for using micro surfacing--adding a thin layer of asphalt and crushed rock mixture to the road surface--to reduce crashes on wet roads. Micro surfacing creates more texture on the road surface, and the dark asphalt causes the road surface to warm up faster and retain heat better than the original concrete surface. During the 20-year study period, which focused on a stretch of Interstate 94 east of Monticello, wet-weather crashes decreased by 76 percent after applying micro surfacing. Total crashes during this time decreased by 19 percent, despite an overall traffic increase on the road of 65 percent.

MnDOT was also recognized, along with Wright County in central Minnesota, for the County Roads Safety Plans Program. MnDOT coordinates with several counties to more effectively involve local highway agencies in the safety planning process and to provide these agencies with the technical assistance to apply for state and federal funding successfully. Wright County's safety plan focuses on roadway departure crashes and intersection crashes. Wright County's safety improvements have contributed to a 34 percent reduction of fatal and serious injury crashes since 1997.

"MnDOT is proud to accept these awards on behalf of the many transportation partners that worked together to make these safety initiatives a success," said Tom Sorel, MnDOT commissioner. "These projects are terrific examples of how Minnesota is a national leader in reducing roadway fatalities and serious injury crashes."

In total, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced nine award winners and two honorable mentions.

"It is a privilege to formally recognize the localities and agencies that were selected for the 2011 National Roadway Safety Awards," said John Porcari, deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation. "Each one of this year's entries demonstrated a commitment to saving lives by improving our nation's roadways."

Minnesota traffic safety efforts are components of Toward Zero Deaths, the state's primary road safety initiative that is a partnership between Department of Public Safety, Department of Health, the University of Minnesota, MnDOT and others. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes -- education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.