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New law paves way for new policies

Published (6/1/2010)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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In New York City, it’s called “Blocking the Box,” and if you do so, you’ll end up with a hefty fine. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, in Minnesota, those that block an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal and impede movement of cross traffic could be subject to a ticket.

This is one of the mixed-bag of provisions contained in the omnibus transportation policy law.

The law, effective Aug. 1, 2010, unless otherwise noted, also addresses a concern that the increase in transit options for the Twin Cities metropolitan area translates to fewer transit options for Greater Minnesota. This law tries to address this inequity by calling for a Greater Minnesota transit investment plan that will have as a goal to meet at least 80 percent total transit service needs in Greater Minnesota by July 1, 2015, and meeting at least 90 percent by July 1, 2025.

To that end, a Minnesota Council on Transportation Access is established to study, evaluate, oversee and make recommendations to improve the coordination, availability, accessibility, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety of transportation services to those who utilize public transit. The governor had objected to a similar provision last year because members would have been eligible for per diem; the new language states that members will only be reimbursed for expenses.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) sponsor the law. It contains several modified provisions from last year’s vetoed omnibus transportation policy bill, including one that would have prohibited several activities at rest areas, including sleeping overnight in vehicles or pitching a tent. This year’s law no longer carries the prohibitions, except one relating to improper disposal of trash and rubbish at rest areas.

The law also sets a new fee of $100 for a vertical motorcycle plate, criteria for issuing special license plates and a process for mothballing plates that have few takers. For example, eligibility for the Combat Wounded license plate is expanded to a Purple Heart recipient who is still serving in the military, rather than just veterans.

Other new veteran-related specialty plates will be available for recipients of the Korean Defense Service Medal, the Bronze Star medal and the Silver Star medal.

The law designates two highway sections as memorials to veterans: the “Becker County Veterans Memorial Highway” will be along segments of Trunk Highways 34 and 87, and a portion of Trunk Highway 200 from the North Dakota border to Mahnomen is designated as the “Veterans Memorial Highway.” It also clarifies the description in a 2009 law creating the Clearwater County Veterans Memorial Highway along Trunk Highway 200.

Imagine streets that take into account the needs of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and people with special needs. The law pushes the state toward a policy that would, during the design phase of any state-aid funded road project, take into consideration the impact the roadway would have on the people who use it, and the impact on the areas that it passes through.

Beginning in 2011, the Department of Transportation is to implement a policy with a goal of developing a balanced transportation system that takes into consideration all modes of transportation.

All bridge projects in the trunk highway bridge improvement program funded in fiscal year 2012 or later must include bicycle and pedestrian accommodations if both sides of the bridge are located in a city or the bridge links a pedestrian way, shared-use path, trail, or scenic bikeway. These accommodations will not be required if there is a reasonable alternative bicycle and pedestrian crossing within one-quarter mile of the bridge project. This takes effect July 1, 2010.

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