Solution by technicality

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has, perhaps, avoided a showdown over the removal of American flags on highway overpasses by using something of a technicality in the state law.

It started the controversy when it ordered the VFW in Brooklyn Park to take down American flags it had placed over five highway overpasses, something it’s done for eight years. MnDOT cited state law against anyone else placing advertisements or objects within the limits of a highway rules.

The predictable response was swift, with defenders of the flag calling for people to place hundreds of the flags on the overpasses.

In a press release today, MnDOT offered a solution. It would do the flag placing, and avoid — maybe — a PR problem that might’ve spiraled out of its control:

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will install U.S. flags on a number of bridges along Highway 610 and Highway 10 in the northwest Twin Cities metro area on Friday, July 20, according to Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel.

“Recently, MnDOT required a private organization to remove U.S. flags that had been illegally placed on several bridges in the Twin Cities area. By law, MnDOT must remove any type of device, advertisement or obstruction placed by private organizations that could interfere with traffic. However, this 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. 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 will be installed on 11 bridges along Highway 610, Highway 10 and Highway 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.

Related: Count the number of violations of the U.S. Flag Code in this video: