The Minnesota Department of Transportation got an unanticipated but welcome marketing push from Mother Nature Monday when she dumped enough snow on the highways to snarl traffic all across the metro.

Except in the new MnPass lane that opened on I-35E between Cayuga Street in St. Paul and Little Canada Road.

“It was the only place in the metro that was freeflowing,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Bobbie Dahlke.

Drivers stuck in gridlock watched as carpoolers, buses and those who pay a fee to use the new lane zipped by.

"The snow was perfect because that is when we see the most users on MnPass and when things move the quickest," she said.

More than 375 people have opened MnPass accounts since MnDOT began accepting enrollments on Nov. 17. Most have been related to the opening of the new lane on I-35E, but a few of those have been for existing MnPass lanes on I-394 and I-35W, Dahlke said. 

In total, there are 27,432 MnPass holders, MnDOT said.

It was not immediately clear how many people used the new 35E lanes Monday morning, but account holders are able to use them without charge through Jan. 4. 

MnDOT will have a better idea of how many users are on I-35E once tolls are collected, she said.

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