Transportation policy bill pedals toward governor’s OK


New protective measures for bicyclers, the establishment of a position to aid Department of Transportation dispute resolution and a required periodic review of MnDOT-owned property for possible sale are part of an omnibus transportation policy bill that is headed for the governor’s desk.

Re-passed by the House 80-49 on Monday, HF1416/ SF1270*, sponsored by Rep. Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina) and Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls), contains multiple measures aimed at providing better safeguards for an increasing number of bicyclers on Minnesota roads.

Included in the bill are provisions that would place tighter restrictions on vehicles turning through bike lanes; passing using bike lanes; and prohibitions on parking, standing or stopping in bicycle lanes unless noted otherwise by posted signage.

Passed late Sunday by the Senate, the bill now awaits Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

Some Republicans expressed concern with what they called a shift in the bill toward giving bikes precedence over vehicles on the state’s roadways.

“The automobile driver is now being required to yield to the bicycle rider,” said Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) the Republican lead on the House Transportation Policy Committee. Rep. Jim Petersburg (R-Waseca) echoed her apprehension, telling House members, “roads were primarily designed for motor vehicles.”

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls), an avid biker and the sponsor of the biker safety legislation included in the bill, countered that the measures are simply clarifications of existing law. Automobiles are already required to yield to and share the road with bicyclers, she said.

“On one of my frequent bike rides in my neighborhood, I can see it done right and done wrong,” Kahn said of driver interaction with bikers.

A handful of measures passed off the House floor in April were removed from the bill during the conference committee process.

A provision that would increase the speed limit on many of the state’s highways from 55 mph to 60 mph, a 24-hour limit on changes to MnDOT project bid documents and a local-option prohibition on flashing red lights on funeral and oversized load vehicles were all absent from the final legislation.

Other measures included in the amended bill would:

  • allow attractions to appear on MnDOT roadside business logo signs;
  • establish a yearly review of MnDOT-owned lands for possible sale;
  • turn back portions of state trunk highways to a pair of Greater Minnesota counties;
  • authorize the use of proceeds from state-run parking ramps in Minneapolis for uses like ramp technology improvements and work on MnPass commuter lanes; and
  • codify an existing MnDOT ombudsperson position in state statute to aid in resolving disputes.

Above: Rep. Ron Erhardt presents the omnibus transportation policy bill on the House Floor May 20. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)