The St. Paul City Council last week approved the Minnesota Department of Transportation's plans to add MnPASS express toll lanes to Interstate 35E along a stretch that runs north of downtown St. Paul to Maplewood and Little Canada.

It would be the first MnPASS corridor established in the east metro area, similar to toll lanes on Interstates 394 and 35W in the west metro.

Proponents see the corridors as a less expensive way to handle congestion than more extensive road building. The state is recommending more such lanes.

Bus riders and car poolers can use the lanes for free, while solo drivers can use them during rush hour for a fee. Should the project gain the necessary approvals, work will begin this year and end in 2015. The project's cost is expected to top $100 million.

Among other things, the project will reconstruct the freeway pavement between Little Canada Road and Maryland Avenue and replace three bridges over I-35E in the city and three in suburban areas.