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Highway Construction Standards

Freeways. Besides the Interstate system of I-35, I-90, and I-94; and the 3di routes of I-494 and I-694 (Twin Cities Beltway), I-394 from the western Twin Cities suburbs to Minneapolis, and I-535 from Duluth to Superior, WI, there are also a few state highways constructed to freeway standards --- mostly in the Twin Cities metro area. These routes are:

Outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, MnDOT constructs major connecting state highways to "expressway" standards, divided highways with limited access but at-grade intersections except (sometimes) around towns where there may be interchanges. Roads constructed to this standard for a significant length include U.S. 10 from Moorhead to the Twin Cities; U.S. 53 from Duluth to Virginia; U.S. 2 from East Grand Forks to east of Bemidji; MN-60 from Worthington to Windom, and from St. James to U.S. 169; U.S. 61 from I-90 south of Winona to Wabasha (and a new segment from Red Wing northwest to the junction with MN-316), and U.S. 169 from Mankato to Shakopee (where it becomes a freeway) and from Elk River to Lake Mille Lacs. Shorter segments of expressway on other routes exist as well. MnDOT is slowly closing the gap on some of these roads, with U.S. 14 being upgraded to expressway between Mankato and Rochester, MN-371 from a freeway segment that ends north of Little Falls to Brainerd, and MN-23 being upgraded between Willmar and St. Cloud.


Traffic Laws

Speed Limits. Statutory and MnDOT-established speed limits are:

Statutory: Rural Interstate freeways

Statutory: Rural expressways and urban state and Interstate freeways

Not a statutorily defined limit

Statutory: Other roads

Statutory: Residential or business districts

Most rural interstates posted at 70 mph with 40 mph minimum*. Not posted on other types of highways. Most expressways outside immediate urban areas so posted. Also, some metro-area freeways outside 494-694 loop. Selected two-lane roads and Twin Cities area freeways** Most 2-lane and county roads, and metro freeways inside 494-694 loop (also through Duluth and Rochester) except for highways raised to 60 mph.. Most urban streets have this limit. Cities can post 25 mph limits if they meet certain requirements, but these are relatively rare.

*The indicated minimum speed is not set by statute, but all sections of interstate posted at 70 mph have a 40 mph minimum (see discussion below).

**MnDOT in September 2005 implemented a plan (modified from that originally announced in March 2005) to raise speed limits on some Twin Cities area freeways and certain sections of two-lane roads around the state from 55 mph to 60 mph without seeking specific legislative approval. Current law allows MnDOT to set speeds higher or lower than the statutory limit on a highway segment after conducting a speed study. The above statutory limits became effective in 1997, and the only significant deviations from them until 2005 were that the 494/694 beltway is mostly posted 60 mph (as are a few miles of semi-urban expressway around the state), and all metro freeways inside the beltway were posted 55 mph. MnDOT's 2005 action affecting two-lane roads was the first upward deviation from the statutory limits. Routes that were raised to 60 mph outside urban areas and except segments previously posted higher are:

Outstate: U.S. 2 from Bemidji to Duluth, U.S. 53 from International Falls to Virginia, U.S. 71 statewide, MN-23 fom I-90 to U.S. 71 at Willmar, MN-60 from Windom to St. James, U.S. 212 from the South Dakota border to Montevideo, and MN-7 from Montevideo to just west of the Twin Cities metro area,

Twin Cities Metro Area: I-94 from MN-55 to I-694, I-35W from MN-36 to I-694, I-35E from Maryland Ave. to I-694, and MN-100 from I-394 to I-694.

There are few miles of county road that are eligible for higher speeds, and the only place I've seen posted over 55 is a one-half mile expressway segment of Scott CSAH 18 just south of U.S. 169 that is posted 60 mph. I'm also informed that CSAH 75 (old U.S. 52) west of St. Cloud is posted 60 mph.

Minimum speeds are posted along most miles of interstate freeway. The usual minimum posted is 40 mph, but both I-35W and I-35E crossing the Minnesota River valley have lower minimum speeds of 30 or 35 mph posted. It may have to do with making these freeways accessible to slow trucks to cross the rivers, which lie in a deep valley. Stranger yet is the fact that the southbound I-35E minimum speed at the Minnesota River is 30 mph, while northbound it is 35 mph.

Lights on...wipers on. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that requires use of headlights whenever rain or snow conditions require the use of wipers.

Seat belts. Enforcement of this law is only as a secondary offense, rather than as a primary offense. The fine is $25 for violations.

Point forgiveness for speeding. During the day of the 55 mph speed limit, the Minnesota Legislature enacted a provision that speeding violations of up to 10 mph over that limit would not result in reporting of the violation to insurance companies or accumulating points toward license suspension. This provision is still on the books, but a careful reading of the law since its revision to incorporate the new speed limits indicates that it only applies when the statutory limit is 55 mph; that is, only on 2-lane highways. Even though the metro freeways are still marked 55 mph, the statutory limit is 65, with the lower speed imposed as the result of a speed study. I would guess many motorists still believe the old law applies.

DWI. Minnesota is the last state to lower the legal blood alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08 percent. The 2004 legislature enacted a law to lower the BAC, but the law did not take effect until July 1, 2005 (the last day to qualify for refunds of lost Federal highway funds).


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Originally uploaded December 19, 1997 Last updated October 2, 2005