Rest area prohibitions, highway names, pedestrian bridge access and high-speed rail were part of the omnibus transportation policy bill that failed get off the governor’s desk.
“While I support several provisions in the bill, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) has raised concerns regarding provisions in this legislation,” Gov. Tim Pawlenty wrote in his veto message. “Those concerns were brought to the attention of the bill’s authors, but the concerns were ultimately ignored.”
Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), the law would have required the department to work with Wisconsin to apply for federal economic stimulus funds relating to the planning and construction of a high-speed passenger rail line that would connect Chicago, La Crosse, Wis. and the Twin Cities metropolitan area, including the Union Depot in St. Paul.
Pawlenty noted that MnDOT has been working with Wisconsin officials on a line from the Twin Cities to Chicago, and that the route is part of a statewide rail study. “We have cautioned the Legislature on many occasions about prematurely selecting specific routes, stops, or endpoints,” he wrote.
A 2008 law that requires mitigation on transportation construction impacts on local businesses would have been amended to include rail transit projects.
In the area of highways, the bill would have:
• prohibited certain activities at rest stops, including failure to properly dispose of trash, dumping household or commercial trash, leaving an unattended vehicle or trailer at a rest area and pitching tents or sleeping overnight outside a vehicle;
• designated Highway 200 between Mahnomen and the North Dakota border as “Veterans Memorial Highway,” and parts of Highways 34 and 87 in Becker County as the “Becker County Veterans Memorial Highway”;
• named the new Highway 23 bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Cloud as the “Granite City Crossing”;
• permitted the annual closing of Highway 19 in New Prague one weekend in September for the Dozinky Festival; and
• required MnDOT to complete the final environmental impact statements to accelerate the improvement on part of Highway 14.
MnDOT already incorporates bicycle and pedestrian facilities into many planning documents, but the bill would have required bicycle and pedestrian facilities on certain bridges repaired or replaced using the trunk highway bridge improvement program enacted last year. It would have applied only to bridges located in a city or that link to a pedestrian path, trail or bikeway. The provisions would not have applied if MnDOT determined there is no demand or a “reasonable alternative” crossing is located within one-quarter mile of the bridge.
Other provisions would have allowed:
• deputy registrars to accept credit cards and add a surcharge to cover the costs of the credit card processing fee;
• removing the household income threshold from the conditions of allowing a person to retrieve contents from an impounded vehicle;
• a statewide expansion of the DWI ignition interlock device pilot program;
• a prohibition against driving into an intersection controlled by a stoplight until a vehicle is able to move completely through; and
• creation of the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access to improve coordination, availability, cost-effectiveness and safety of transit services to the transit dependent.
Pawlenty wrote that the council would overlap the Interagency Committee on Transit Coordination. “I established ICTC to coordinate health and human service programs with public transportation systems. … I will direct Mn/DOT to expand the membership of the ICTC to address the purported need for the new council.”
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