Speed limits seem simple on the surface, but like many details of our transportation system, they get complicated when you dig a little deeper. A few years ago in this column, I described how speed limits have worked in Minnesota. Compared to our neighboring states, the Department of Transportation has long wielded a firm and controlling hand over those rules. This is why, when you travel to cities and towns in Iowa or Wisconsin, you encounter 20 or 25 miles-per-hour streets on a regular basis while you don’t in Minnesota.
But a lot has changed since 2015, and the picture has grown more intriguing. The compromises forged at the end of last year’s legislative session included a new law that allows Minnesota cities to set their own speed limits on city streets.
“During the 2019 session the state of Minnesota passed a state law that allowed municipalities, but not counties and not the state, to change speed limits within some parameters,” explained Kathy Lantry, St. Paul’s director of public works. “[This is only for] city-owned streets, owned and operated by the city. We now have the ability to regulate speeds different from the way we always used to.”