Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

MnDOT Policies

Safety Rest Areas Procedures and Requirements

For Safety Rest Areas Policy #OE003

Effective Date: February 7, 2022

Print Procedures and Requirements (pdf)


This document is the technical companion to the Minnesota Department of Transporation’s (MnDOT’s) Safety Rest Areas Policy and includes details about application and selection, special provisions, newsrack requirements, violations and remedial action, and insurance requirements.


Activity or Activities

The collective acts of an individual, group, or entity engaged in a common enterprise that demonstrably supports the purposes of SRAs.


Any individual, group, or entity that desires to distribute publications or engage in another activity at a MnDOT SRA.

Class I Safety Rest Area (updated 4-26-23)

A rest area facility that is open 24 hours per day and features flush toilets, drinking fountains, maps, picnic facilities, lighted walkways, lighted car, RV, and commercial truck parking lots, and other site amenities.

Class II Safety Rest Area

A rest area facility that is seasonally operated and features vault toilet facilities, picnic facilities, paved parking lots, and other site amenities.


Any self-service or coin-operated box, container, storage unit, or other dispenser owned, installed, used, and maintained by a publisher for the sale or distribution of publications at a MnDOT SRA.


Any individual, group, or entity permitted by MnDOT to perform an activity at a SRA.


Any individual, group, or entity approved by MnDOT to distribute publications at a SRA.

Safety Rest Area (SRA)

A roadside facility designated by the Commissioner of Transportation as a rest area or as a welcome, travel, visitor, or tourist information center, which is removed from the traveled way with parking and such facilities for the motorist as is necessary for the traveling public’s rest, relaxation, comfort, and information needs.

See Minnesota Statutes §86A.05, subd. 12 and Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations, §§752.3(a) and 752.5. The definition of SRA includes the facilities described in 23 U.S.C §111(b)

Publication Distribution (Newsracks)

Application to Distribute a Publication

An applicant must submit the following materials to the SRA Program Manager for approval:

  • A completed, signed, and dated "Application to Distribute" Form (hereafter referred to as “application”)
  • Scale drawing or product cut sheet of the newsrack showing newsrack size, materials, colors, and construction
  • A sample of the publication the applicant proposes to distribute
  • Certificate of insurance

Selection and Award Procedure

MnDOT accepts applications to distribute a publication on an annual basis from March 1 through April 15. Annual permits expire each year on May 15. Applicants may submit only one application per publication per SRA. MnDOT rejects additional applications for the same publication at a single SRA.

MnDOT issues up to eight (8) newsrack permits per SRA. For locations where MnDOT receives eight or fewer applications, MnDOT approves all applications that comply with the requirements of the policy and these procedures. For each location where MnDOT receives more than eight non-duplicative applications, MnDOT holds a lottery administered as follows:

  • Each application that complies with the requirements of the policy and these procedures receives an alphabetical letter.
  • Alphabetical letters are randomly selected for all corresponding applications for that SRA.
  • The applications matching the first eight letters drawn receive approval.
  • The remaining applications not selected are placed on a wait list with a notation of the order drawn.
  • In the event that openings occur during the year, MnDOT selects applications on the wait list in the order drawn in the lottery.

MnDOT approves applications by signing the submitted application form and returning a copy to the applicant, along with information regarding the location within the SRA where the publisher may place the newsrack. MnDOT does not charge an application or a permit fee related to the distribution of publications.

MnDOT rejects applications not complying with the policy and related procedures and requirements by marking the application “rejected,” noting the reason for the rejection, and returning a copy of the application to the applicant.

Special Provisions

A publisher must not:

  • Assign its permit to another person or entity
  • Store publications at SRAs
  • Dispose of excess or outdated publications in receptacles at an SRA (Minnesota Statutes §160. 2755)
  • Distribute or display obscene materials at SRAs as defined in Minnesota Statutes §617.241
  • Install a newsrack before it is approved by MnDOT and or before May 15 of the permit year
  • Damage state property
  • Fail to reimburse MnDOT for the cost of any remedial action(s) caused by the publisher

Physical Requirements for Newsracks

MnDOT permits only newsracks that satisfy the following requirements:

  • Constructed of metal or heavy-duty plastic designed specifically for dispensing publications from an exterior location, subject to Minnesota’s varying weather conditions;
  • Dispenses no more than one (1) publication;
  • Complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C §1201;
  • Features a transparent window through which the publication’s cover is visible;
  • Height of 50 inches or less, width of 30 inches or less, depth of 24 inches or less, and weighted adequately or otherwise secured to prevent the newsrack from being toppled by wind;
  • Completely enclosed, with a self-closing door that either self-latches or otherwise requires manual or mechanical release at each use;
  • Predominantly earth tone such as black, brown, tan, gray or green in color. MnDOT does not permit fluorescent or other strikingly bright or vivid colors on newsracks;
  • Does not create a danger to the general public;
  • Equipped with a coin-return mechanism other means to facilitate immediate refund when a fee is charged;
  • Devoid of advertising other that the publication name and logo, which must be placed in an area no larger than 15 by 17 inches on the front, sides or back of the newsrack;
  • Prominently and legibly displays the following information on the front of the newsrack: the name of the newsrack owner, distributor name, full mailing address, 10-digit telephone number and email address;
  • Devoid of dirt or grease; chipped, faded, peeling or cracking paint; rust or corrosion; or cracked, dented, blemished or discolored glass;
  • Conspicuously and legibly displays the statement, “Disclaimer: Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available by third parties, including information providers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or distributors(s) and do not state or reflect those of the State of Minnesota. Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the State of Minnesota.”


Publishers must provide regular and periodic maintenance checks of their newsrack(s) and must ensure the newsrack does not create a danger to persons using the newsrack or to the public. In the event a newsrack remains empty or fails to meet the physical requirements specified above, including that resulting from vandalism or act of God, for a period of 30 continuous calendar days, MnDOT deems the newsrack abandoned and in violation of the policy. In the event a publisher desires to discontinue a newsrack location voluntarily, the publisher must notify the SRA Program Manager, remove the newsrack, and restore the newsrack area to the preinstalled condition.

Location of Newsracks

The SRA Program Manager shall designate one location for the newsracks on the SRA site along a primary walk connecting the car parking lot with the main entrance to the SRA building. The publisher may not install any newsrack at a SRA except at the designated newsrack location.

The publisher must install the newsrack in a safe and secure manner to prevent theft or the creation of a hazard in the event of severe weather. The publisher may accomplish this by either weighting the newsrack or anchoring it to an independent concrete base housed within the footprint of the newsrack. The publisher may not chain a newsrack to any existing element on site or to other newsracks.

Violation and remedial action

The SRA Program Manager shall take any remedial action deemed necessary and appropriate to address a publisher’s noncompliance with the policy and related procedures and requirements. Such remedial action may include:

  • Removal or disposal of the newsrack(s) and publication(s)
  • Revocation of the publisher’s permit to distribute publications at MnDOT SRAs for one calendar year
  • Billing the publisher for repair of damaged state property

Notice of remedial action

After MnDOT takes any remedial action authorized by the policy or these procedures, the SRA Program Manager shall send written notification within 14 calendar days, via certified mail, to the noncompliant party detailing the alleged violation(s), the remedial action taken by MnDOT, and the action MnDOT requires the noncompliant party to take, which may include:

  • Retrieval, repair, or replacement of the newsrack
  • Payment of costs incurred by MnDOT to address the noncompliance

Notice is complete upon mailing to the address provided by the publisher in the application. The publisher must update the SRA Program Manager if the publisher’s address or contact information changes over the course of the permit period. The publisher shall be liable to MnDOT for the actual costs associated with removal and storage of the newsrack. MnDOT shall dispose of any newsrack that a publisher fails to retrieve with 75 calendar days after mailing of the written notice.

Opportunity for Informal Hearing

If the publisher disagrees with the determination of noncompliance or the remedial action set forth in MnDOT’s written notice, the publisher shall have 30 calendar days from the date the notice was mailed to request an informal hearing before MnDOT’s Deputy Commissioner or their designee. Requests for an informal hearing shall be addressed to:

Deputy Commissioner/Chief Engineer
Minnesota Department of Transportation
395 John Ireland Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155

MnDOT shall conduct an informal hearing at a date, time, and location determined by the Deputy Commissioner or designee. A noncompliant party’s failure to request a hearing within the time allowed under these procedures, or a noncompliant party’s failure to appear at the hearing, shall result in the noncompliant party’s forfeiture of the opportunity for the informal hearing.

Requests for Other SRA Activities

MnDOT may issue permits for activities that provide for the safety and convenience of the traveling public through opportunities for rest, parking, travel information, and related actions that facilitate safe and convenient travel by motor vehicle. Activities must not interfere with the normal use of the SRA facilities by the public, and activities must be free of charge.

Examples of permissible activities include:

  • Providing coffee
  • Windshield washing at no charge
  • Distribution of “See Motorcycles” bumper stickers
  • Providing an interpretive display that demonstrably supports the purposes of SRAs
  • Donating the cost of a new rest area amenity

Examples of impermissible activities include:

  • Weddings
  • Worship services
  • Political events
  • Geocaching
  • Hunting
  • Posting of signs or posters
  • Distribution or exhibition of obscene materials

Courts have found that perimeter sidewalks at highway SRAs are nonpublic forums and that government-imposed restrictions on speech at SRAs “need only be reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because of opposition to the speaker’s views,” Jacobson v. Department of Transportation, 450 F.3d 778, 780 (8th Cir. 2006). See also International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672, 683 (1992), holding “the restriction need only be reasonable; it need not be the most reasonable or the only reasonable limitation.”


An applicant must submit the following materials to the SRA Program Manager for permit consideration:

  • A written request at least 60 calendar days before the proposed activity, stating the date and duration for the activity, expected attendance, specific activities expected to occur, and a description of any items the applicant will bring to the SRA.
  • A certificate of insurance, as required by the SRA policy and these procedures.
  • Any additional information requested by MnDOT about the proposed activity.

Approval Procedure

The SRA Program Manager shall determine whether the proposed activity complies with state and federal laws and regulations, and demonstrably supports the purposes of SRAs. The SRA Program Manager shall review requests on a “first come, first served basis.” After the SRA Program Manager has approved the request, MnDOT District Permits staff shall issue a permit to the applicant.

Special Provisions

In addition to the requirements and restrictions included in the permit, the permittee must:

  • Prohibit the use and distribution of alcoholic beverages and controlled substances during the activity.
  • Assume responsibility for activity clean up, and bear all costs of policing, cleaning, and restoring the SRA to its pre-activity condition within the timeframe requested by MnDOT.
  • Reimburse MnDOT for costs incurred by MnDOT due to any failure to perform clean up and restoration in a manner reasonably acceptable to MnDOT.
  • Comply with applicable laws and regulations in the use of the SRA and conduct of the activity.
  • Not distribute, display, or allow performance of obscene matter, as defined in Minnesota Statutes §617.241.
  • Limit all activities conducted on the property to any conditions of the MnDOT approval.
  • Accept that failure to abide by the permit or any other applicable laws, rules, or MnDOT policies may result in revocation of current and future activity permitting.
  • Not place or erect any signage relating to the special activity unless MnDOT has approved it in advance.

The permittee may:

  • Accept voluntary donations using a sign with the single message, “Donations.”
  • Connect to exterior water and electrical connections, if available.

Upon request, MnDOT may permit a sign on the highway right-of-way, in advance of the SRA, advertising the activity. MnDOT shall not permit placement of the sign before or after the hours that the activity is conducted or if the sign may interfere with existing signing or create a hazard.

Insurance and Liability Requirements for Distribution of Publications and Other Activities

The publisher in the case of publication distribution, and the permittee in the case of permitted activities, must accept the following responsibilities:

  • The applicant must procure and maintain commercial general liability insurance during the term of the permit and include the State of Minnesota as an additional insured to the policy.
  • The policy must be of a duration, form and amount satisfactory to MnDOT to cover any loss that may be incurred for or on account of any matter, cause or thing arising out of the permitted publication distribution or activity, and for property damage, personal injury, and public liability under the permit’s indemnification clause.
  • The amount of insurance must have a limit of not less than two (2) million dollars taken together. An Umbrella or Excess Liability insurance policy may supplement the underlying policy limits to satisfy the full policy limits required herein.
  • The Policyholder must notify MnDOT within five (5) business days of receipt of a cancellation notice from the insurance carrier affording coverage or the insurance carrier must provide notice to MnDOT at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to cancellation if the policy contains a provision requiring such notice.
  • The applicant must agree to accept full liability for any and all direct and consequential damages associated with its actions and property relating to its permit.
  • The applicant must agree to indemnify, save, defend, and hold harmless the State, MnDOT, State employees, officers, agents, and contractors from any and all claims resulting from injuries, damages and losses arising out of, connected with, or in any way associated with the permit requested by the applicant.