ST. PAUL (AP) -- It's a cold war, but this time Minnesota and Siberia are on the same side.
Some of Minnesota's top transportation officials are heading to a place even colder than their hometown to show their Siberian counterparts how they've managed to build and maintain roads and bridges despite frigid winters.
The trip, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, will take two top state transportation officials, a University of Minnesota expert and a Minnesota-based transportation businessman this week to Kemerovo, Russia, in southern Siberia. They expect to arrive around mid-week.
As in the United States, most Russian road management and transportation operations are handled at a regional level, so when the Russian Highway Administration and U.S. officials teamed up several years ago to form local relationships, Minnesota seemed like a natural fit.
"When they thought of states in the lower 48 to go to, Minnesota was the first that came to mind," Deputy Transportation Commissioner Doug Weiszhaar said. "We have quite a lot of things to share. ... They have a lot of snow and a lot of wind. Those forces come together here as well."
He will be joined by Michael Marttila, a construction engineer for the Minnesota Transportation Department; Michael Marti, senior associate at SRF Consulting of Minneapolis; and Cheri Marti (no relation to Michael Marti), director of education and technology transfer programs at the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies.
Weiszhaar said he hopes that by learning from Minnesota's experiences, the Siberians can leapfrog from their current 1930s-era transportation technology to the best practices of today. They expect the Siberian officials they will meet will be less interested in fancy state-of-the art American snowplows and more interested in basic road maintenance issues.
Cheri Marti said she plans to brief Russian officials on ways to maintain roads while saving money by using less sand and salt. Other topics, she said, likely would involve the proper ways to crown, or curve, a gravel road so that it won't flood as well as easy ways to fix winter-weary asphalt.
There's also a very market-oriented reason for the trip: Kemerovo might be in the market for materials and services available from Minnesota companies to keep roads working during the winter.
Kemerovo, in south-central Siberia, is situated about 1,000 miles farther north than St. Paul, which means winters tend to last longer. The average temperature in Kemerovo hovers around zero degrees from December to February. Locally, the average temperature in December is 18 degrees; in January, about 12; and in February, about 18.
Kemerovo, which is closer to Mongolia than it is to Moscow, has a population of about 500,000. It is almost exactly halfway around the world from Minnesota, resulting in a 12-hour time difference.
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