BAXTER -- "My mommy built that bridge."
That's what Jordan Martinson, 2, and her 3-month-old sister Emily will be able to tell their friends when biking underneath the new Highway 371 bridge someday.
Jody Martinson, 29, is a project engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 3 office in Baxter. She was in charge of the bypass construction project and bridge, as well as the Highway 210 road improvement project and frontage road system in Baxter that was completed last year.
She is only one of a handful of female engineers who work in the construction field for MnDOT.
Construction can be a tough field whether you're male or female. It can be difficult to tell a 250-pound muscled contractor he has to repour concrete or fix a shoddy job, or explain to an angry resident that, yes, road construction in front of her home is going to make her life miserable for awhile -- not to mention making sure all utilities are rerouted and out of the way before digging can begin.
Running a construction operation is almost like being a ringmaster in a circus, making sure the more than a dozen contracting firms on the job are working together smoothly, efficiently and on schedule.
Martinson, a Barnesville native, received her civil engineering degree from North Dakota State University in Fargo. She has spent six years working for MnDOT; three of those years have been in the construction field. However, this was her fourth road construction season in the construction office.
"I like the math and the science and I liked the outdoors," said Martinson. "You get that in civil engineering. We're one of the busiest districts in the state and I wanted to be in the action. There is so much happening here."
The new Highway 371 project was a crowning jewel of a project for any civil engineer. There were so many dynamics to this project, compared to other road construction work. It's not very often that MnDOT builds a highway straight through virgin woodlands in a rural yet fairly urban setting and constructs a bridge that is aesthetically pleasing and unique.
"You have a piece of everything on this job," said Martinson.
The biggest complication on the new Highway 371 project was when MnDOT crews, including Martinson, spent the night of April 27-28 working around the clock to switch the Highway 210/371 intersection to its temporary location.
She was nine months pregnant with daughter Emily as she stood on the roadway directing traffic and contractors. She warned her crew members that they might have to deliver her baby. Emily was born May 4. Martinson took six weeks of maternity leave, then went back to work on the Highway 371 project.
For Martinson and her husband Brian, their oldest daughter Jordan, 2, was born shortly before she started the Highway 210 road construction project.
While it may have been unusual to see a woman in charge of such a large construction project, Martinson said her gender was never a factor in how contractors treated her on the job.
"It really hasn't been an issue," she said. "I think that with any job, you have to earn your stripes. When you earn your stripes, you earn their respect. The contractors here have been very fair to work with."
The Martinsons live in Baxter, and Jody said she is excited to be able to drive the new highway and bike underneath the Mississippi River bridge. Ironically, now that the new Highway 371 and the frontage roads in Baxter are finished, it has made it more difficult for Martinson and her colleagues to enter the MnDOT Baxter offices; the building's normal access route was cut off and rerouted.
"It's a relief," Martinson said of the finished project. "It's really exciting but now you can sit back and finally breathe. It's hard to explain."
"That's Mommy's bridge," Martinson told her daughter as they drove over the new Mississippi River bridge. Now whenever they pass over any bridge, Jordan asks if that bridge was hers, too.
"There is ownership over it, that's for sure," said Martinson, who is proud to have worked on such a large project. She also credits the contractors and inspectors for making the construction project run so smoothly. "I think everyone here has their hands on it."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.