The MnPASS system has been operating on Interstate 394 since 2005, and it's coming to the section of Interstate 35W between Burnsville and downtown Minneapolis on September 30.
That part of I-35W is a highly congested section of road that connects downtown Minneapolis to the southern suburbs. I-35W is currently under construction as part of the Crosstown Project to reconfigure the intersection with Highway 62 and relive some of the congestion on the road, the busiest commuting route in the Twin Cities. Part of the current roadwork is to add High Occupancy Vehicle lanes for buses and ride sharing, and solo drivers who use MnPASS.
MnPASS users get a battery-operated transponder which allows them pay a toll and to drive in a HOV lane. Sensors on the freeway detect cars with the transponders and automatically deduct the toll charge from the users' MnPASS account.
The exact amount of the toll depends on how much traffic there is. During less congestion, the toll is lower, when it's busy, the toll increases, up to a maximum of $8. Drivers with MnPASS can decide to pay the toll and use the HOV lanes, or to drive with the rest of the traffic for free.
It costs $1.50 every month to lease a MnPASS transponder, plus the toll charges, so it's not cheap, but if sitting in traffic every day is gradually destroying your soul, it might be worth it to save your sanity.
And if you open a new MnPASS account before October 31 you'll receive $25 free towards toll charges. And an extra bonus of $20 of Metro Transit tickets on a rechargeable Go-To Card.
Traffic at a standstill in downtown St. Paul. The I-94 corridor between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul is being studied for possible HOV lanes and MnPASS use. Photo Clara James