Safe & Sustainable Transportation

Driver’s License Test – Plain Language Standards

In April, the Legislature passed HF 3071, which requires the Department of Public Safety to implement plain language standards for the written portion of the driver’s license knowledge examination, creating a new written examination by February 1, 2025 that follows those standards and is a fair assessment of Minnesota’s traffic and driving laws. This ensures that people will be tested on their knowledge of Minnesota’s traffic and driving laws during that examination, not on their understanding of unnecessarily confusing and complex language choices. The bill, which received strong bipartisan support, will help all Minnesotans who are working towards their driver’s licenses and will alleviate some of the backlog and scheduling issues for driver’s testing that are a current source of frustration for many people across the state.

Transportation Budget and Policy Bills

The Legislature addressed the serious financial need across Minnesota’s transportation system with a significant investment in the physical systems that connect Minnesotans to each other, to their work, to healthcare, and to everything else that defines a mobile and fulfilled life. The omnibus Transportation budget and policy bills provided necessary operations funding to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety, and the Metropolitan Council, and included a wide range of additional provisions and appropriations. Notable examples include:

  • $30 million in trunk highway bond funding to MnDOT, with $15 million for the Corridors of Commerce program that focuses on major state highway projects and $15 million for state road construction work.
  • $15.56 million to MnDOT for trunk highway and local road projects.
  • $11.35 million to MnDOT for its small cities assistance account, which appropriates funds using an established formula to cities that do not receive municipal state aid, generally meaning those that have a population under 5,000. Cities may only use these funds for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges on projects located at least partially within the city.
  • $2.969 million to DPS for additional staff and related operating costs to support testing at driver’s license examination stations.
  • Established the Anti-Displacement Community Prosperity Program to preserve and enhance affordable housing, small business support, job training and placement, economic vitality, and to benefit the people and sense of community in the communities along the Blue Line light rail transit extension corridor, which is defined as the neighborhoods and communities within one mile of the route selected for the Blue Line light rail transit extension project.
    • Appropriated $10 million to the Metropolitan Council for a grant to Hennepin County to administer the program.
    • Established that program money may only be used for four purposes: affordable housing, small business and community ownership support, public space infrastructure enhancements, and job training and placement.
    • Established the program’s governing board and requirements for the approval and expenditure of program funds.
  • Authorized MnDOT and DPS to establish a traffic safety camera pilot program that provides for education and enforcement of speeding violations, traffic-control signal violations, or both in conjunction with use of traffic safety camera systems.
    • The authority for camera-based traffic enforcement under the pilot program is limited to August 1, 2025 to July 31, 2029.
    • Only MnDOT, DPS, the city of Minneapolis, and the city of Mendota Heights may implement camera-based traffic enforcement under the pilot program.
    • MnDOT and DPS must enforce speeding violations in at least two, but no more than four, trunk highway work zone segments.
  • Established the Lights On grant program to provide drivers, in lieu of a traffic ticket, with vouchers of up to $250 to use at participating auto repair shops to repair or replace broken or malfunctioning headlights, rear lights, and clearance and marker lights. The program is designed to increase road safety by ensuring vehicle lights are illuminated, offering drivers restorative solutions rather than punishment for malfunctioning equipment, lessening the financial burden of traffic tickets on low-income drivers, and improving police-community relations.
    • Counties, cities, towns, the State Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies, including law enforcement agencies of a federally-recognized Tribe, are eligible to apply for grants under the program.
    • Appropriated $1.2 million to DPS for the program, which must, through its Office of Traffic Safety, contract with the Lights On! microgrant program to administer and operate the program. The Lights On! microgrant program, which was founded in the Twin Cities in 2016 following the killing that year of Philando Castile, partners with police departments and auto service providers to replace traffic tickets with repair vouchers. The vouchers are valid for 14 days and have a $250 limit on light-related repairs.
  • Eliminated the previous requirement that DPS’ Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) division must administer the fourth or subsequent written driver’s license knowledge examination for a driver’s license applicant if the applicant had failed three previous examinations. This authorized third-party proctors to administer fourth or subsequent examinations.
    • Previously, an applicant could take the examination two times for free at a DVS exam station, but if they failed those first two attempts and wanted to take their third attempt at a DVS exam station as well, they had to pay DVS a $10 fee for that third attempt. If they failed their third attempt, they were required to take their fourth and any subsequent attempts at a DVS exam station, and each attempt cost $10. An applicant was also able to take their first, second, and/or third attempts at a third-party exam station, which could cost up to $10 beginning with their first attempt.
  • Required that, when the Metropolitan Council is the responsible authority for a light rail transit project in the metro area, MnDOT must provide staff and project assistance to the Met Council for review and oversight of the project’s development.
    • Required that the Met Council must utilize MnDOT staff for assistance on a wide range of specified and in-depth areas, including risk assessment and cost analysis, contractor and subcontractor schedule analysis and contractual requirements, and project cost management and budget analysis. This requirement does not apply to the Southwest light rail project.
    • Required that if the Met Council decides against utilizing input or recommendations from MnDOT on a given project, the Met Council must reconcile significant deviations to the extent practicable, and that portion of the project cannot move forward until the recommendation is reconciled. If the Met Council has sufficient reasoning to justify not utilizing input or recommendations from MnDOT, it must, within 30 business days, provide written notice, documentation, and explanation of the decision to MnDOT and the Senate and House Transportation Committees.
Senate DFL Media