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OUR OPINION: Border needs better access to Minnesota’s enhanced IDs

Our Opinion

More than 144,000 personal vehicles crossed the Canadian border at the Warroad, Minn., border-crossing station in 2013, the U.S. government reports.

Further east at the major crossing at International Falls, Minn., the numbers are even more impressive: More than 525,000 personal vehicles in 2013 crossed the border at that location.

Clearly, letting motorists in those communities use their driver’s license as a border-crossing document will be a tremendous benefit. So, once again, kudos to Minnesota for offering Minnesotans the option of an enhanced driver’s license or identification card — a document that can take the place of a passport for land and water crossings from Canada.

There’s just one problem:

Residents of Warroad, International Falls and other border-crossing towns can’t apply for the enhanced licenses or IDs at their local Driver and Vehicle Services office.

Instead, they have to travel to regional offices to apply, which means a trip to Bemidji from throughout northwestern Minnesota and to Virginia, Minn., or Duluth from I-Falls and the Arrowhead region.

“Currently, 14 DVS exam stations can accept enhanced driver’s license and enhanced EID applications,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website notes.

The exam stations are Anoka, Arden Hills, Austin, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Eagan, Hastings, Mankato, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. Paul and Virginia.

Not one of those stations is located in a border town. That should change, because the border communities are the places where by far the highest percentage of motorists will be looking for enhanced driver’s licenses or IDs.

After all, a great many residents of border communities cross the border routinely for shopping and work. To a person, they fondly remember the “good old days,” when passports at the Canadian border were unknown, and motorists needed only to flash their driver’s licenses to get across and return.

Enhanced driver’s licenses, of course, represent a smart, safe, practical and secure return to those “good old days.”

A Herald reader noticed this discrepancy last week after reading our editorial about enhanced driver’s licenses. The reader has a point, and Minnesota should listen: The state should let Minnesotans apply for enhanced driver’s licenses or IDs at more than just 14 DVS stations.

And it especially should let residents apply at their local offices in border towns.