MnDOT: Shutdown would end MnPASS access to HOV lanes

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 28, 2011 - 3:56 PM
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The MnPass lanes on Interstate 35W south of I-494

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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The state will have to stop collecting those quarters and sometimes dollars from solo motorists who use the pay-to-drive carpool lanes in the metro area starting Friday should the state budget impasse lead to a government shutdown, transportation officials said Tuesday.

E-mails were sent to the thousands of motorists whose transponders allow them to pay to drive solo in the high-occupancy lanes of Interstate 394 between downtown Minneapolis and the west metro, and between downtown Minneapolis and the south metro.

In the event of shutdown, the lanes will only be available from 6-10 a.m. and from 2-7 p.m. to vehicles with more than one person, motorcyclists and buses, said Christine Krueger, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Solo drivers, even those with transponders, are out of luck during those rush-hour time slots and should expect to see State Patrol enforcement, she said. Single-person vehicles can use the lanes at other times, Krueger said.

Transponder users pay a $1.50 monthly lease fee plus whatever the amount is when entering the lanes. The monthly fee will be credited on a pro-rated basis until the MnPASS lanes resume operating, Krueger said.

With a budget deal still not reached, "we will have no authority to expend or release funds to pay for MnPASS Express Lanes after June 30, 2011," according to the e-mail. "Therefore, use of the lanes will be temporarily suspended on July 1, 2011."

Post-shutdown, I-394 would be left as westbound only, said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht. I-35W would be available in both directions, he said.

There are 18,171 MnPASS accounts and 22,408 transponders currently active, according to the latest MnDOT figures. The lanes collect an average of $7,000 to $8,000 a day, Krueger said.

Other potential consequences include:

• On 35W, the northbound shoulder lanes between 42nd and 26th Streets would be closed to traffic.

• Customer sign-up for transponders and account maintenance will be unavailable and transponder requests cannot be filled at this time. Current customers monthly $1.50 transponder lease fee will be prorated.

• The MnPASS customer service center in Golden Valley would close.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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