Rules and policies
MnDOT is developing an Interagency Agreement with Explore Minnesota Tourism related to brochure distribution. The agreement when executed will permit the distribution of brochures of interest to the traveling public at rest areas and travel information centers.
MnDOT designs materials for and maintains display cases at rest areas. Explore Minnesota Tourism provides similar services at Travel Information Centers. As a rule, rest area display cases will include the following postings:
City maps posted at facilities in the following cities in PDF format (Albert Lea, Austin, Bemidji, Brainerd, Cloquet, Duluth, Fairmont, Faribault, Fergus Falls, Hibbing, Mankato, Moorhead, New Ulm, Owatonna, Red Wing, Rochester, St. Cloud, Willmar, Winona, Worthington)
MnDOT permits the flying of POW/MIA flags at rest areas. Parties may sponsor a POW/MIA Flag at a rest area by making a donation toward the purchase and replacement of POW/MIA flags.
Rest area flag rules:
Do not fly any other flag or pennant above the US flag. If on the same level, fly other flag to the left of the US flag as viewed from the rest area parking lot
Do not exceed two flags per pole
Fly the POW/MIA flag on the same pole as the US flag when State and US flags are on two separate poles
Fly the US flag in the center and highest point in a group of flags displayed on poles
Do not fly flag larger than the US flag in the same group
Time and occasion display rules:
Display flags from sunrise to sunset on buildings or stationary flagstaffs in the open
Do not display the flags during heavy rain storms or strong winds. Raise flag when these conditions subside.
Hoist the US Flag first and lower last when flown with group of flags
Hoist the flags briskly and lower them ceremoniously. Do not let the flag touch the ground or floor.
Fly the POW/MIA flag below the lowest flag when the US or State flag is flown at half-staff
Geocaching is a new recreational activity that brings technology and nature together. It is similar to treasure hunting and is initiated by an individual hiding a cache, normally in a waterproof container with small items inside. The location is recorded with a Global Positioning Unit. The individual then posts the GPS coordinates along with a description of the cache on the geocaching website. Other individuals then try to find the cache. When it is located, participants sign a logbook, then take or leave a small item. They also post their find on the online logbook.
Earthcache is a type of virtual-cache which is maintained by the Geological Society of America. The cacher usually has to perform a task which teaches him/her an educational lesson about the earth science of the cache area.
Letterboxing is a phenomenon similar to geocaching in that a player takes directions from a website and uses those directions to find a hidden object. In letterboxing, the directions come in the form of a riddle, and the hidden object is a stamp which the finder can use to stamp a piece of paper to prove that he has visited the site.
The Degree Confluence Project is another web-based activity in which people try to visit various latitude and longitude integer degree intersections and report their findings on the website. In this case, however, no objects are placed in the ground, and there are no apparent regulatory violations in areas where cross-country travel is allowed or where the confluence is not on a protected site.
MnDOT wants to encourage positive use of its rest areas and feels that geocaching, if played in accordance with this policy, will not conflict with other rest area uses. These activities are allowed in MnDOT rest areas:
Players placing caches must register the cache location with MnDOT
MnDOT will permit no more than one cache per rest area at one time
Use transparent containers and clearly label the container's exterior as a geocache
Caches must not contain offensive, dangerous or illegal items
Players are subject to applicable laws, ordinances and agency policies including hours of operation, designated uses, maintenance standards and natural resources management activities
Placement or gaining access to caches is restricted to within 25 feet of trails and walks and must not require disturbance of the rest area site
MnDOT retains the right to remove, or have removed, a cache it feels is in an inappropriate location, causing undo impact on the habitat, conflicting with rest area use and maintenance or is not registered with MnDOT
Caches are not allowed in environmentally, culturally or historically sensitive areas
MnDOT does not allow caches in the Cold Spring Wayside
Commercial motor vehicle operators subject to hours of service regulations under 49 CFR 395 may stop and park continuously, for a period of up to ten hours as necessary to comply with the hours of service regulations, at any MnDOT safety rest area or travel information center that has parking stalls designed to accommodate a commercial motor vehicle (CITE: MN Statutes § 160.2721).
All other motorists are permitted to stop at rest areas for up to six hours at a time (CITE: Commissioner's Memorandum No. 108).
Overnight camping, tenting and parking is prohibited at rest areas, except for two sites noted in the Commissioner's Memorandum cited above.
Memorial markers are physical objects that are placed on highway right-of-way, marking the site of a fatal crash.
In mid-December 2004, the MnDOT Operation Advisory Group determined that because rest areas are part of the right-of-way, this guideline applies with regard to the placement of memorial markers at rest areas. The guideline was established by issuance of MnDOT Maintenance Bulletin No. 04-2, issued June 9, 2004.
Crashes on highways are traumatic events for all those involved. Crashes that result in loss of life are even more tragic, and they impact many lives including the family and friends of the victim. MnDOT understands the pain caused by these events and recognizes that some people’s grieving could include the placement of memorials near the site.
MnDOT will be understanding and compassionate since this is a sensitive issue and will encourage other ways to memorialize the person(s) rather than a marker along the highway since MnDOT’s main concern is safety. These markers can be a physical and/or visual hazard to other motorists, and no one wants these memorials to be the cause of another crash at the same location.
Typically, hazards associated with this type of marker may include non-breakaway physical objects within the clear zone; visual distractions that can cause erratic driving behavior both day and night; vehicles parked adjacent to the traveled way and in areas of narrow shoulders; pedestrians on or near the roadway, children exiting or entering vehicles from the roadway side of parked vehicles, physical obstructions that could cause problems with snowmobiles, dirt bikes, ATVs, as well as maintenance activities such as moving and snow plowing. Any physical post driven into the ground is a hazard above ground and may also be an additional hazard if it strikes an underground utility such as a power cable.
Minnesota statute references
Minnesota Statute 160.27 Subd. 5 states, "Except for the actions of the road authorities, their agents, employees, contractors and utilities in carrying out their duties imposed by law or contract...it shall be unlawful to: (5) dig any holes in the highway...; (9) place or maintain an advertisement within the limits of any highway; (10) paint, print, place, or affix any advertisement or any object within the limits of the highway."
Minnesota Statute 169.34(a) state, "No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle...:(14) at any place where official signs prohibit stopping." All interstate freeways and other designated freeways in Minnesota are signed for Emergency Stopping Only, which is displayed on R16-X4 signs at all entrances.
Memorial marker guidelines
Memorial markers are not permitted on the interstate system or other freeways; MnDOT maintenance forces will immediately remove any memorial makers placed on these highways. Temporary memorial markers may be placed on other state highways and remain for an appropriate time, not to exceed six (6) months. Memorial markers will be removed if they:
Do not meet safety criteria within the clear zone (physical or visual)
Negatively impact the free flow of traffic
Are located outside the clear zone but constitute a hazard if hit by either on- or off-roadway vehicles
Interfere with routine maintenance operations
Removed memorial markers will be stored for retrieval at the local truck station for a minimum of 30 days prior to disposal. Questions can be directed to Gabe Guevara, Maintenance Operations Support Engineer, 651-366-3556.
MnDOT permits the posting of missing children flyers in rest areas under the following conditions as proposed by the Operations Policy Committee. View official policy statement (PDF)
Missing persons only; no other postings
Children only (under 18 at time of disappearance)
All rest areas having bulletin boards
Posters only; no handouts or mailings
Size 8 1/2 x 11 only
Post for 6 months from the date of request
MnDOT does not permit personal sales at MnDOT owned rest areas. The restriction is based on the following interpretation by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of Section 111 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) of 1982:
A vending machine is a coin or currency operated machine capable of automatically dispensing an article or product. By limiting installations to vending machines, it is expressly intended to preclude a vendor from establishing a stand or shop for the purpose of selling the article or product and also to exclude any form of personal salesmanship. View FHWA interpretation (PDF)
MnDOT permits the authorized use of rest areas for the purpose of providing motorists with free coffee or other approved refreshments according to the following provisions:
Only nonprofit organizations with legitimate concern for automotive, highway, or driver safety may sponsor a refreshment break
Sponsoring organization must conduct refreshment break for the express purpose of improving the safety of highway travel, and not primarily for promotion of the sponsoring organization
Refreshment break activities are limited to areas designated by the MnDOT Area Maintenance Engineer or their designee. Areas do not include ramps, parking areas, or other areas used for the movement of pedestrians or vehicles.
Activities must not, in any way, interfere with the normal use of the rest area facilities by the public
Sponsor must provide the refreshments free of charge
Sponsor may accept donations using a sign with the single message ‘DONATIONS’ where refreshments are distributed
MnDOT will permit a sign on highway right-of-way, in advance of the rest area, advertising to motorist free coffee or refreshments. MnDOT will not permit placement of the sign before or after the hours that refreshments are distributed nor where the sign will interfere with existing signing.
Sponsor may connect to exterior water and electrical connections, if available
Sponsoring organization must cleanup the area used for their activities
Parties interested in sponsoring a refreshment break must submit a request for use of the rest areas. The request must indicate the specific dates and hours for which use of the rest area is desired. MnDOT must receive the request at least 14 days in advance of the desired date. MnDOT will authorize acceptable use of the rest area in writing.
Frequently asked questions
Does MnDOT allow free coffee operations?
Yes, but it must be for a transportation related purpose.
Does MnDOT issue permits for this activity?
Are free coffee operations allowed at rest areas that have vending machines?
Does MnDOT allow weekends other than holiday weekends?
Does MnDOT allow operations on weekdays not associated with holiday weekends?
Are groups allowed to handout food items or other consumable goods?
Does MnDOT provide electric, water or trash service?
Does MnDOT charge for such service?
What is the average number of coffee break operations MnDOT has per year?
Each district manages their own requests and schedules related to coffee break operations.