The dilemma of flying flags from highway bridges may have reached an acceptable conclusion this past weekend. On Friday, July 20 the Minnesota Department of Transportation installed U.S. flags on a number of bridges along Highway 610 and Hwy 10 in the northwest Twin Cities metro area, according to Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel.
Recently, MNDOT required the Palmer VFW in Brooklyn Park to remove U.S. flags they had been flying over 5 highway overpasses for 8 years. Additionally, he Coon Rapids VFW had been maintaining flags over Highway 10 in Coon Rapids and Anoka.
Quartermaster Jerry Brletich said the MNDOT representative told him the department had looked the other way until now as there had been requests to hang other items from bridges, which is illegal.
“We weren’t too happy,” Brletich said. “… We should be able to fly an American flag any place.”
By law, MNDOT must remove any type of device, advertisement or obstruction placed by private organizations that could interfere with traffic. Removal of the flags triggered numerous complaints from the public, most suggesting that the U.S. flag deserves special consideration from state law.
“In response to public concern, we took a closer look at this issue and concluded that, if MNDOT, not a private organization, purchases and installs the flags, the agency will continue to meet its safety and legal concerns, while being sensitive to public sentiment,” said Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel. “In addition, MNDOT’s installation will ensure that the flags are secure and that anything that comes loose would land away from the roadway. MnDOT is not willing to accept risk regarding roadway distraction or obstruction.”
The U.S. flag was installed on 11 bridges along Hwy. 610, Hwy. 10 and Hwy. 252, according to MNDOT. The agency is seeking input from other state DOT’s and developing a policy to determine when and where other flags may be installed.
Kevin Gutknecht, from MNDOT’s Office of Communications, pointed out MNDOT did not come up with a new policy rather, made a decision working within the parameters of current state law to hang the flags.
“We feel we did a pretty good job staying within the parameters of state law,” he said. He also said they will continue to look at requests but this decision does not mean they will put flags up on every infrastructure. There are other issues within the flag code MNDOT will be looking at such as lighting the flag when it is hanging for 24 hours.