Federal highway official to take over MnDOT

Tom Sorel, left, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty at today's annoucement.
MinnPost photo by Joe Kimball
Tom Sorel, left, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty at today’s annoucement.

Tom Sorel, who heads the Federal Highway Administration’s Minnesota office, was named today as the new state Transportation Commissioner by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

He replaces Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who had run the transportation department until the state Senate refused to confirm her this winter.

The transportation job has been in the spotlight since the Aug. 1 collapse of the I-35W bridge in  Minneapolis.

Sorel, 51, grew up in upstate New York and has a civil engineering background. He helped develop the transportation plan for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He starts next Monday.

Sorel said he hopes to rebuild public confidence in transportation concerns and MnDOT. Also, he wants to “regenerate the spirit of innovation and creativity” in the department, he said.

Asked about his thoughts about restoring the funding for the Central Corridor light rail project that was recently vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty, Sorel said he needs to learn more about the project before commenting.

Two other finalists were considered for the job, Pawlenty said. They were Bob McFarlane, who had been Molnau’s top aide and had served as interim commissioner for the past seven weeks, and Bob Johns, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota.

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