Route Number and Control Section Designation Process for the Trunk Highway System
MnDOT Policy AD007
View/print signed policy (PDF)
This policy sets the framework by which the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) determines the location of numbered routes and control sections that form the trunk highway system.
Numbered trunk highways exist to describe the paths of highways to ensure they meet the statutory mandates describing the route, where it begins, where it ends, and any locations through which it is required to pass.
- Do not define ownership of the infrastructure;
- Do not define financial responsibility for construction or maintenance of that infrastructure;
- Do not determine legal liability for tort claims defined by other laws, policies and agreements.
In instances where a trunk highway and a local road intersect or cross, MnDOT refers to a number of documents,
- Trunk Highway Commissioner’s Orders;
- State Aid Commissioner’s Orders;
- MnDOT Cost Participation for Cooperative Construction Projects and Maintenance Responsibilities between MnDOT and Local Units of Government Policy and Manual;
- Agreements and right-of-way ownership to define further the items listed above.
Route number and control section assignments use route mainlines (increasing direction centerline) in determining the route description. Other highway elements such as ramps are subject to modification and not a stable and consistent application of network designation.
MnDOT determines route paths that avoid the creation of mainline route stubs (for example, the portion of the main trafficked route between the intersection of the increasing lanes and the edge of right of way). MnDOT strives to prevent gaps in route mainlines or the doubling back of the route.
- Ensure compliance with Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Article XIV that creates the Trunk Highway System, which must be constructed, improved and maintained as public highways by the state;
- Provide a consistent and reliable method for determining route number and control section assignments;
- Provide an overview of the Route Numbering and Control Section Committee (RNCS Committee), the decision-making process, and responsibilities of the committee members;
- Define the terms used to describe route numbering and control section designation;
- Recognize the comprehensive MnDOT database, the Linear Referencing System, as the authoritative source for locations along the highways.
- MnDOT staff responsible for planning, designing, constructing or maintaining the trunk highway system;
- MnDOT staff responsible for reporting information related to the trunk highway system;
- Local agency staff responsible for planning, designing, constructing, or maintaining the local roadway system as it intersects with the Trunk Highway System.
Districts formulate proposals for RNCS Committee consideration
- Districts work with MnDOT subject matter expert offices (such as Traffic, Safety & Technology, Land Management or Project Management & Technical Support) and local agency stakeholders;
- Complete the Route Number and Control Section Action Proposal worksheet for RNCS Committee review.
RNCS Committee Review Process
- Review the worksheet and determine the appropriate action(s) needed to approve/deny/modify the requested change;
- Consult with the Office of Government Affairs if the recommendation requires a statute change. Discuss whether legislation may be necessary to re-designate the route;
- Consult with the Office of State Aid if the recommendation affects a local road;
- If approved, the RNCS Committee prepares the Route Number and Control Section Committee Letter.
RNCS Committee Implementation Process
- Coordinate with the Office of State Aid;
- Coordinate with the Office of Governmental Affairs regarding statutory change of a legislative route or a constitutional amendment for a constitutional route;
- Notify and seek approval from AASHTO if the proposed change involves route realignment, or change in length of an interstate or U.S. highway. The Commissioner signs the letter for the application and returns it to the RNCS Committee, if approved;
- The district completes the U.S. Route Numbering Application form;
- Send a change letter to stakeholders documenting the decision of the RNCS Committee if the change involves route realignment, or change in length of a trunk highway only.
A Commissioner’s Order is an official act of determination of the Commissioner of Transportation pursuant to Minnesota Statutes §161.09 for trunk highways, Minnesota Statutes §162.02 for county state-aid highways, and Minnesota Statutes §162.09 for municipal state-aid streets.
The initial set of Statutory Routes, 1 - 70, described in Minnesota Statutes §161.114. A change to the prescribed routes in statutes of these highways entails changing the State Constitution, which requires a statewide vote.
Control Section Number
A control section number is a specific segment of trunk highway for recordkeeping, maintenance, construction, and other administrative purposes. The four-digit control section number is composed of the two-number county code and an identifying two-digit number within that county. Control sections typically end at intersections with other trunk highways, county lines, or other geographical features. Control section numbers are revised due to jurisdictional transfers (typically from state to county) when new highway segments or entirely new state highways are built.
Statutory Routes numbered 71 or higher added to the trunk highway system by the legislature under the provisions of Article 14 of the State Constitution. The Legislature may alter the described pathways of these routes during a legislative session.
Linear Referencing System
The Linear Referencing System is MnDOT’s main source for route location planning level data:
- Centralized tool for locating and analyzing spatial roadway data attributes;
- Translates various linear referencing methods;
- Historical record from the time of the system’s implementation
Numbered Trunk Highway
A numbered trunk highway is an official designation of a state owned route following a path defined by Commissioner’s Order or a Route Numbering and Control Section Committee Letter. The number assigned to the route may or may not coincide with a statutory route number describing the destinations or the numbered route. Numbered routes receive a number that is signed along the route for the traveling public to follow. The numbered route does not imply any ownership, fiscal or legal responsibility, or lack thereof.
Route Numbering and Control Section Committee Letter
The Route Numbering and Control Section Committee Letter is an official communique to notify a change of the trunk highway system. The Committee publishes the letter on an online site; and, distributes by email to various staff throughout the department. They describe a numbered trunk highway route and/or the limits of a control section. They also notify staff of the change to statutory routes approved by the Legislature. Changes reflect data in the Linear Referencing System.
State Aid Route
A State Aid Route is a public highway designated to be part of either the county state-aid highway system or the municipal state-aid system and eligible for funding assistance pursuant to Article XIV of the Minnesota Constitution.
Routes described in statute are required to consist of one or more state owned trunk highways. The texts describing the routes usually list a set of cities that served by the route "affording (them) and intervening and adjacent communities a reasonable means of communication each with the other and other places within the state." This means that if a bypass passes around a city named in the text, the city must first annex the land required for the new alignment so that the new route still passes through the city limits.
Trunk Highway Fund
This fund is the principal operating fund for MnDOT and to some extent for the Minnesota State Patrol at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. It is a governmental fund that accounts for public monies used to construct, improve, and maintain Minnesota’s trunk highway infrastructure. Annual transfers of funds to Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) for Trunk Highway-related debt service come from this fund.
Trunk Highway System
All roads established or to be established under the provisions of Article XIV, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, "Public Highway System." This system includes highways that are constructed, improved, and maintained as public highways under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Transportation, including highways on the Interstate system.
- In conjunction with Office of State Aid and districts representatives, the RNCS Committee is responsible for ensuring each decision or recommendation regarding route numbering and control section follows the principles of this policy.
- Assist districts and other offices by approving decisions and implementing the route and control section action.
- Typical actions necessitating changes to route numbers, designations and control sections include:
- Change a route number;
- Relocate a route to a different highway;
- Create a new highway route;
- New highway right of way corridor proposed;
- New highway construction;
- Change in district boundary, either construction or maintenance;
- Creation of control sections for MnDOT state projects for other modes of transportation;
- Changes to U.S. Bicycle Routes;
- Changes to number or location of routes carrying special designations, such as Business or Memorial routes
- Typical actions necessitating changes to route numbers, designations and control sections include:
District Program Managers or District Engineers
- Coordinate with local agencies regarding project development and delivery;
- Participate in the RNCS Committee when issues regarding their district;
- When it is determined that a route will need a new or modified route number and control section, the district is responsible for preparing and submitting the RNCS Action Proposal Worksheet to the RNCS Committee;
- Ensure the RNCS process is complete before the commencement of any work;
- Complete the AASHTO forms when changes occur to a U.S. highway.
Office of State Aid
- The District State Aid Engineers and the Office of State Aid act as liaisons between the local agencies and MnDOT when the proposed changes to the RNCS on trunk highways affect the local roadway system;
- State Aid is responsible for reviewing and commenting on RNCS Committee proposed decisions.
Office of Government Affairs
- When notified by the RNCS Committee about a change in a legislative trunk highway route, the Office of Government Affairs develops bill language for legislative vote and assists with any legislative questions about the proposed change;
- When notified by the RNCS Committee about a change in a constitutional route, the Office of Government Affairs determines the process for seeking a constitutional amendment.
Office of Land Management
- Review and advise the RNCS Committee regarding relocation of constitutional routes;
- Schedule the creation, modification, or relocation of legislative routes.
Office of Traffic Safety and Technology
- Advise district offices and the RNCS Committee regarding proposals for route numbering system modifications and the potential impacts to route signage;
- Represent MnDOT to the AASHTO Committee of Transportation Officials on Route Numbering;
- Provide expertise to the RNCS Committee on the application and location of special route designations.
Office of Transit
- Participate in the RNCS Committee when issues regarding U.S. bike routes are on the agenda. If it is determined that a bike route will need a new or modified route number or route name, or control section, the office prepares and submits the RNCS Action Proposal Worksheet to the RNCS Committee;
- Ensure that the RNCS process is complete before work begins and complete the required AASHTO forms when changes occur to a U.S. bike route.
Office of Transportation System Management
- Maintains various lists:
- Active control sections and their limits;
- Statutory Routes and their limits;
- Memorial Routes and their limits;
- Notify the RNCS Committee of changes in length or termini based on proposed decisions;
- Draft and disseminate RNCS Committee decision letters;
- Support the RNCS Committee in any other documentation or mapping needs.
Q: How can a jurisdictional transfer result in the RNCS assigning a local route number across the state right of way?
A: Every time a local road crosses over a trunk Highway, the trunk highway designation continues through and does not stop at the edge of the right of way, gap over the right of way, and then resume the route on the other side of the right of way. The numbered route crosses over the freeway, without gaps, even though the local agency may not own the land.
Q: Why do routes tend to end at the centerline of the intersections route?
A: The route and control section number defines the route. Mainlines of routes tend to be mostly stable and do not change except when part of a major project. Ramps and right of way lines are less stable, and the endpoints can change more frequently on completion of improvements. Another reason is that this method prevents the route from crossing itself, gapping and then resuming as a spot of intersection with itself.
Q: When should the Office of State Aid or the district staff involve the RNCS Committee in the jurisdictional transfer process?
A: The RNCS Committee should be involved early enough to guarantee that the transfer would occur prior to the start of construction by the local agency.
Q: What is the difference between a trunk highway number and a trunk highway route number?
A: The trunk highway number is the number assigned to a trunk highway route and displayed on signs and maps for the use of the public to follow a highway route. The trunk highway route number is the number assigned to a route by statute. The two numbers may be the same but often are not.
- Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Article XIV, Section 2 Trunk Highway System
- Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Article XIV, Section 5 Highway User Tax Distribution Fund
- Minnesota Statutes §161.09 Department Orders, Files, and Records
- Minnesota Statutes §161.114 Constitutional Trunk Highways
- Minnesota Statutes §161.115 Additional Trunk Highways
- Minnesota Statutes §161.117 Trunk Highways; Additional Routes
- Minnesota Statutes §161.12 Additional Routes Added; Federal Aid
- Minnesota Statutes §161.122 Restrictions on Marked Trunk Highway 51
- Minnesota Statutes §161.14 Names and Designations of Certain Highways
- Minnesota Statutes §161.16 Highway Designation, Vacation, Reversion, Survey
- 1939 Trunk Highway Control Sections
- Roadway Data Control Sections, Statutory, and Memorial Routes
- MnDOT Cost Participation for Cooperative Construction Projects and Maintenance Responsibilities between MnDOT and Local Units of Government Policy
Responsible Senior Officer
Susan M. Mulvihill, P.E.
Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer
Mark Gieseke, P.E.
Director, Office of Transportation System Management
Geographic Information & Mapping