While they may be frustrated by gridlock, Twin Cities commuters who take advantage of empty MnPASS lanes are more likely to get caught by police from now on.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has teamed up with the Minnesota State Patrol for a two-year trial combating drivers who MnPASS lanes illegally, a news release says.
Starting Wednesday, six troopers will be assigned to patrol the MnPASS lanes of Interstate 35E, Interstate 394 and Interstate 35W during peak hours.
They will crack down on any solo drivers who are using the MnPASS lanes without having an account and paying for the privilege.
On its website, MnDOT says its MnPASS lanes are designed to increase the number of people (not vehicles) that can move along busy highways at a faster rate during peak hours, and is a way of incentivizing public transportation use and carpooling.
The department says 85 percent of people using the lanes are either on buses or in carpools.
What are the rules for MnPASS?
MnPASS signage can sometimes be confusing, so to clear it up we've taken a look at some of the rules.
Basically, MnPASS lanes are restricted when traffic is at its highest. Here are the peak times they are in operation:
- I-394: From 6-10 a.m. and 2-7 p.m. Monday to Friday.
- I-35W: From 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Monday to Friday.
- I-35E: From 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. Monday to Friday.
And here are the vehicles allowed to use the lanes when they are in operation:
- Cars carrying two or more people.
- Cars with one driver who pays via a MnPASS account.
When peak times are in effect, signs should show the cost of using the lane to MnPASS account holders, which will increase depending on how busy it is. (Note: There are two MnPASS lanes – on I-394 and I-35W – where drivers may see two different prices. Those who are traveling on the first section of the roadway will pay the first price, but if you're traveling the entire way you'll pay the second price listed. You don't add the two prices together, MnDOT explains.)
It should be noted however, that outside of the peak times above, MnPASS lanes are open for all drivers to use, free of charge. When this is the case, there should be signs saying "open" or "open to all traffic," according to MnDOT.
There are exceptions, though. The stretch of I-394 between Highway 100 and I-94 (the reversible lanes) and the northbound I-35W from 42nd Street to downtown are always tolled, MnDOT says.
And remember, it's illegal for motorists to cross the solid, double white lines – so only get in the MnPASS lane where it is legal to do so.