New MnPass lanes on Interstate 35E through Maplewood and St. Paul will open Nov. 30, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said Monday.
The opening of the metro area's third high-occupancy toll lane (HOT) comes with another change that will affect drivers who use any of the MnPass lanes on I-35E, I-35W and I-394: Transponders that MnDOT uses to collect tolls electronically will be phased out and replaced with new express tags.
During the Nov. 30-Jan. 4 grand-opening period, new and current MnPass account holders will get free access to the I-35E MnPass lanes between Little Canada Road and the Cayuga Bridge just north of downtown St. Paul.
MnDOT will begin accepting new MnPass applications on Nov. 17, the same day that new express tags become available.
Two kinds of express tags will be rolled out:
• A sticker with an embedded chip that is in an "always on" mode, meaning that tolls will be deducted any time a driver uses the HOT lane during periods when fees are charged — even if the vehicle qualifies as a carpool. The stickers, which are free, are applied to a vehicle's windshield and cannot be transferred from vehicle to vehicle without deactivating the chip.
• A tag that allows a driver in a HOT lane to slide a lever between free carpool and fee-paying MnPass mode. Unlike the stickers, the device can be moved from vehicle to vehicle.
There will be no cost to convert from a transponder to a windshield sticker. A one-time $15 will be charged to get a switchable tag. New account holders will be assessed $25, which pays for the first $25 of fees. In either case, MnPass holders will not have to pay a $1.50 monthly transponder lease fee starting Nov. 23.
Requests for tags and stickers and new applications can be filed on the MnDOT website (www.mnpass.org). Tags can also be obtained in person at Metro Transit service centers at 719 Marquette Av. S. in downtown Minneapolis or in the skyway level of the U.S. Bank building at 101 E. 5th Street in downtown St. Paul.