Connector newsletter - August 2017

Connector newsletter

Hiawatha now powered by new Amtrak Midwest Charger locomotives

Mae Knowles, Wisconsin DOT — Aug. 30

Passenger train travel along the Amtrak Hiawatha Milwaukee-to-Chicago route and throughout the Midwest entered a new era on Aug. 28 as the first of 33 new Amtrak Midwest locomotives were unveiled at a news conference at Chicago Union Station.

The 33 new Charger locomotives will be branded with the Amtrak Midwest logo.

"We look forward to the improved efficiency and reliability that the Siemens Charger locomotives bring to intercity passenger rail services across the Midwest," said Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Director of the Bureau of Transit, Local Roads, Railroads, and Harbors David Simon.

The new Siemens Charger locomotives feature enhanced smoothness, speed capability and safety features – along with reduced exhaust emissions.

The new Amtrak Midwest logo displayed along the front and sides of the new engines promote the five-state network of connecting trains with a robust reservations system, eTicketing and mobile apps; AmtrakConnectSM cellular-based Wi-Fi; and the Amtrak Guest Rewards® program.

Once all 33 locomotives are operating, they will be deployed from Chicago on trains that service the Hiawatha route to Milwaukee and others throughout the Midwest network that served more than 2.6 million Amtrak customers in the last year.

A state-of-the-art microprocessor control system performs continued monitoring to ensure the most efficient on-time performance.

The new fleet will offer numerous advantages, such as lower maintenance costs, reduced fuel consumption and quieter operation. Powered by a Midwest-made 4,400 horsepower Cummins QSK95 diesel engine, the locomotives have faster acceleration and braking for better on-time reliability. They also meet the latest safety regulations and feature better traction for improved performance.

The Chargers are the first high-powered passenger locomotives to meet the highest federal environmental standards with their 90 percent reduction in emissions and a two-thirds reduction in fuel consumption compared to the previous locomotives. 

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DMV's Motor Carrier Registration Unit helps new trucking businesses get rolling

Terry Walsh, Wisconsin DOT — Aug. 29

Semi trucksThere are plenty of pressures associated with semi-truck driving – odd hours, tight deadlines, long stretches away from home and family being among the challenges.

These pressures are even more pronounced for truckers new to the profession who are also working hard to understand the rules they need to follow to keep themselves and fellow drivers safe and in within compliance. To help alleviate some of this pressures, the Wisconsin DOT Motor Carrier Registration Unit developed an interactive Motor Carrier Start-Up Packet to help explain federal and state regulations. The packet, available as an interactive PDF online or download, includes forms and web page links to help new operators get their businesses rolling.

“Wisconsin’s businesses need an increasing number of truck drivers to move freight. This informative packet walks new motor carriers through the entire process to help get them get on the road,” said Jay Sween, Motor Carrier Services section chief.

Packet content is organized in the order new motor carriers would begin and run their operation. Seasoned drivers will find interesting links to the Wisconsin DOT’s Truck Parking Information Management System, and e-Credential Pilot project, which is a test to provide law enforcement with electronic credentials upon request. The department also offers a broad scope of information for new motor carriers through its start-up information page.

This interactive guide also links to WisDOT’s Motor Carrier YouTube playlist for tutorials on how to fill out required state and federal paperwork. Some videos, like the Uniform Carrier Registration (UCR), are not state specific while others address important information to run their Wisconsin business, such as how to establish a state of Wisconsin Web Access Management System (WAMS) account.

“Wisconsin leads the way again in its focus on compliance by being proactive with a packet of information for any motor carrier conducting operations in our state,” said Ellen Voie, president of Women in Trucking Association, Inc. “This information is comprehensive, informative and easily understandable for any carrier, whether they have one truck or a hundred.”

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Wisconsin DOT wins award for its effort in the collaborative renovation project

Martha Morganstein, Wisconsin DOT — Aug. 16

The La Crosse County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation were named this year’s recipients of the Triangle of Achievement Award for their work on the La Crosse Area Travel Welcome Center renovation project.

award Bob Spoerl, facility engineer, and Angela Adams, SW Region deputy director, represented Wisconsin DOT in receiving the Triangle of Achievement award for the new La Crosse Rest Area.

The La Crosse Area Development Corporation Industry’s Triangle of Achievement Award recognizes organizations that collaborate on projects or work together to find solutions to issues central to the La Crosse Area’s economic development.

According to Bob Spoerl, Wisconsin DOT facility engineer, replacement of the old rest area that opened in 1977 was badly needed. The welcome center is off of Interstate 90 and acts as a hub for travelers entering the state from the west.

He explained that then retired La Crosse CVB Executive Director Dave Clements began efforts to gain support from political leaders as well as from the three state agencies.

Senator Jennifer Shilling and Rep. Jill Billings worked directly with Clements, which led to a buy-in from Gov. Scott Walker in 2014. 

Spoerl said that after the project had state support, the collaborative efforts between the different departments were necessary for its successful completion.

Wisconsin DOT oversaw the planning, developing, and maintenance of the new rest area and welcome center. The La Crosse CVB and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism work together to provide statewide tourist information at the rest area.

Renovation of the welcome center was a yearlong $3.5 million project. The new facility includes a visitor’s building, restrooms, playground, pet exercise area, picnic tables and seasonal walking paths.

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Governor's Small Businesses Summit registration deadline is Sept. 19

flyerRegistration deadline for the 2017 Governor’s Small Business Summit at the Stoney Creek Convention Center in Rothschild, Wis., is Sept. 19.  

Join Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and their cabinet on Sept. 26 for a day of networking with Wisconsin small business owners. The summit is for anyone interested in learning about doing business with state government, social media brand development strategies and expanding into foreign markets.

To register for the summit and see the agenda, visit the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development online. Cost is $50, which includes breakfast, lunch with Governor Walker and his cabinet secretaries, and direct access to experts who can support your efforts to partner with state government in workforce development and job creation.

For questions, please call the Office of Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch at (608) 266-3516. 

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Exceeding Expectations
Wisconsin State Patrol's Bergeman races to give his son every opportunity to succeed     

Joe Starr, Wisconsin DOT — Aug. 3

Bergeman family The Bergemans from left - Jordan, Jess, Samuel, Jeffrey and Susan.

For Wisconsin State Patrol Network Communications Systems Analyst Jordan Bergeman, running was never on his “must-do” list, so how is it that this husband and father of three is preparing for his first IRONMAN Triathlon?

Understanding why requires you to look no further than his running partner, his 11-year-old son Jeffrey Bergeman. It’s Jeffrey’s love of running that pushes Jordan to goals he never imagined possible.

Along with preparing to toe the line at the 2018 IRONMAN Wisconsin, Jordan is also a Boston Marathon hopeful, currently about 10 minutes shy of reaching this goal. This alone would be an amazing achievement, seeing as only about 12% of marathoners have run Boston qualifying times, but once you know that Jordan is pushing rather than running alongside Jeffrey in these races, you begin to see what really drives this running duo.

In May 2008, when Jeffrey was almost 2 years old, his heart stopped beating. By the time first responders arrived and were able to resuscitate him, his brain had been deprived of oxygen for several minutes resulting in damage to his brain and a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Hospital staff informed Jordan and his wife Jess that Jeffrey’s development would remain where it was for the rest of his life. 

Continuing life as planned

“Their prognosis was pretty grim,” said Jordan. “They said he’ll never walk again, talk again, tell you that he loves you, smile, laugh.” Rather than accepting the diagnosis, Jordan and Jess decided to continue life as planned by offering Jeffrey every chance to succeed.

“We took that approach with Jeffrey as we have our other two children. It may not look the same with each of them but it never does, even if you have what the world considers three typical children.”

While the Bergemans did all they could to give Jeffrey the same experiences, there were activities like running that he could not do. That’s when Who I Run For—an organization that pairs people who can’t run with athletes—came into their lives. In 2013 Jeffrey was paired with Kareen, a marathon runner from Virginia who dedicates her training and races to Jeffrey. The race medals, t-shirts, and Facebook messages that Kareen shared not only fired up Jeffrey but his mom as well. Jess got motivated by what she saw Kareen doing for Jeffrey and decided to add running to a workout regimen she had recently started to reclaim her health.

“A lot of times as a parent you put your needs on the back burner,” said Jordan, adding that it is that much more challenging when you have special needs children because of the care requirements. 

Knowing that Jeffrey had a love for the sport, she started including him on her runs. Training runs lead to mother-son 5K and longer races, all done with an adaptive stroller.

New running chair opens opportunities 

“The stroller wasn't exactly ideal for running, but we made do with what you had,” said Jordan. About this time a group called Ainsley’s Angels heard about the Bergeman’s situation and partnered with Who I Run For to get Jeffrey a Freedom Chair, which is wheelchair designed for running. The new chair allowed Jeffrey and Jess to sign up for their first half marathon. Then it happened – another big jump up in distance as Jeffrey, Jess and Kareen decided to enter the Marine Corp Marathon. 

“I supported her but thought she was completely crazy,” said Jordan of Jess’ idea. “Who runs a 5K for fun let alone 26.2 miles while pushing somebody?”

So it started —a series of events to include a fund raiser for the race entry fees as well as a new Freedom Chair that would be given to a family in need. They also decided to raise funds for a Hoyt Blade 2 chair, a higher end chair for running and cycling.

“That would have upped the total we needed to fund raise significantly so we prayed about it, we talked about it, we tried to figure out the right route to go,” said Jordan. The decision they came to was fund raising for it all, and once successful the Bergemans gave the two Freedom Chairs to two families that needed them while Jeffrey stepped up to the blade chair. Not only did this new chair allow the Bergemans to go on family bike trips but it would also catapult Jordan into a sport he never intended to enter at a level he never imagined possible.

Reluctant racer finds his stride

Last year Jordan was helping team Jeffrey-Jess power through races at ever increasing distances. This was also when Jess began suggesting that Jordan start running. There was a 5K race at Jeffrey’s school to raise money to build a barrier free playground, and Jess wanted Jordan to run it with Jeffery. Hesitancy and doubt filled his head, but he knew it was for a good cause and he would be doing it with his son. While on a work trip in Madison, Wis., Jordan decided he would start his race training on the treadmill at the hotel where he was staying.

“I said okay I’m going to get on the treadmill and do three miles. I honestly don’t know if I finished three miles on it. I walked away from it saying never again.” But shock from that first run abated and by the beginning of September, Jordan was in serious training mode. Race day came and team Jeffrey-Jordan made it across the finish line. This led to Jordan joining Jess and Jeffrey for a mid-October half marathon they were using as a training run for the Oct. 30 Marine Corp Marathon.

He's a marathon maniac

Meanwhile Kareen had plans to run a marathon two weeks after MCM, which would earn her the title of “marathon maniac.” This is an exclusive group of people who have completed two marathons within 16 days of each other. This got Jordan thinking, what if he and Jeffrey ran this race together making Jeffrey a marathon maniac? Jordan, likely delirious from his half marathon finish, was considering doubling the distance of his longest run to date.

"He has come so much further than the doctors said he ever could, and I think we are still just scratching the surface of what he is capable of."

— Jordan Bergeman speaking of his son Jeffrey

After receiving a nod from Jess on whether she thought he could do it, Jordan proposed the idea to Jeffrey. His son was all for this new challenge, answering “yes” to all of dad’s questions, but his answer to the final question was what sealed the deal.

“I asked him if he believed in me and he said, ‘yes.’” For Jordan this answer meant everything as he became emotional describing his son’s resolve:

“Here’s a guy that goes through so much every day of his life and he perseveres through it all, and yet he remains happy and he just pushes through. So if he believes in me how can I doubt that?”

Jeffrey, Jordan and Kareen went on to complete their marathons, which crowned Jeffrey and Kareen as official marathon maniacs. And the adventure continues as team Jeffrey-Jordan have since completed a few more 5Ks as well as another half marathon, marathon and three sprint triathlons.

Supportive running community

Beyond the physical benefits these endurance sports offer, Jordan says it is the positive support that comes from the athletic community where athletes like Jeffrey are welcomed and encouraged to succeed.

“As runners go past and they see Jeffrey they’ll shout, ‘Go get it Jeffrey, you’re doing great.’ They’re encouraging him and to me that’s why we’re out there. It’s an incredible community and an amazing experience.”

And it works both ways, says Jordan, explaining how other runners get a boost when they see Jeffrey coming.

“When we go past people it just kind of ignites something inside of them, especially in those long miles.

“He’s out there breaking these barriers down. He has come so much further than the doctors said he ever could, and I think we are still just scratching the surface of what he is capable of.”

To help offset costs for the race entry fees, as well as expenses for equipment and repairs, Jordan and Jess set up a GoFundMe page.

“It’s to make it so we can continue making these races a reality for Jeffrey. And we want to encourage others through what we are doing. My thought is if there is someone else who wants to complete a 5K or a marathon to make ourselves available to push them through it as well.”

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Wisconsin DOT employees participate in National Bike Challenge

Martha Morganstein, Wisconsin DOT — Aug. 1

Since this year’s National Bike Challenge began on May 1, the Wisconsin DOT team has logged more than 28,230 miles.

This year’s team is comprised of 68 members from a variety of divisions and offices throughout the state.

Pictured during a 2016 National Bike Challenge event from left are Fred Schunke, Ruth Coisman, Grant Coisman, Dan Tyler and Brian Porter.

Wisconsin DOT Team Captain Dan Tyler explained that biking supports Wisconsin DOT’s overall mission statement of developing an efficient multimodal transportation system.

He explained that biking infrastructure is much lighter and often less expensive than traditional roadways. He added that parking a bike is easier than parking other vehicles as it is usually free and requires little space.

Bicyclists log their miles through an athletic activity tracking app called Strava, which allows users to enter distances manually or through GPS technology. When participants first sign up, they can join teams within their workplace, city or state.

“The program connects us all to a national community with very little workload on our part,” Tyler said.

Wisconsin DOT Librarian John Cherney has logged bicycling miles since 2004. Beyond the health benefits and sense of community that biking provides, he said bicycle commuting is a nice alternative to the automotive alternative. 

“I feel so much more energized in the mornings when I didn’t have to sit through the rush hour traffic,” Cherney said.

"Bike riding is not just for hardcore, spandex-wearing bike racers, but it’s for persons of many different abilities whether they use it for transportation or for leisure."

— Wisconsin DOT National Bike Challenge Team Captain Dan Tyler

Since becoming team captain in 2014, Tyler has tried to address barriers preventing his colleagues from participating in the bike challenge. He has held educational events explaining the availability of bike racks and showers at Wisconsin DOT facilities, and about bringing bikes on city buses and general bike maintenance tips.

“Bike riding is not just for hardcore, spandex-wearing bike racers, but it’s for persons of many different abilities whether they use it for transportation or for leisure,” he said.

In 2016, Wisconsin DOT's team rode more than 92,000 miles. This is equivalent to roughly 5 million calories burned, based on averages for calories burned by average cyclists. Statistics, gathered from the NBC website, go on to say that riding in lieu of driving in 2016 saved about $83,000 in fuel or 52,000 pounds of CO2 vehicle emissions.

Tyler encourages anyone involved with the transportation system to spend time on a bicycle. He explained it is a great way for employees to connect with the diverse public that Wisconsin DOT serves as well as gain perspective about the projects that employees have been involved with.

“The transportation system looks and feels different depending how you use it,” Tyler explained. “When you are on a bike or out for a walk, you can see the physical or tangible effects of the system that we have helped build.”

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