My Aug. 17 story about the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the State Patrol joining forces to crack down on motorists using the MnPass lanes illegally generated lots of discussion on the merits of the special lanes reserved during rush hour for carpools, buses, motorcycles, and solo drivers who pay to use them.

The piece detailing how MnDOT will pay the patrol $2.6 million for the next two years to enforce the lanes also had readers asking about everything from the hours that the diamond lanes on Interstate 35W, I-35E and I-394 are enforced to the new lane markings on I-394.

Doug, who does not have a MnPass account, uses I-35W to get from south Minneapolis to Burnsville during the morning commute and wondered if he could use the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes since he’s traveling in the opposite direction of the heavy traffic. And vice versa on his trip home.

“The diamond lanes are confusing, but it does indicate hours of use, like 3 to 6 p.m. But signs also indicate MnPass, multiple occupancy, buses, motorcycles. So, can I use the diamond lane going south to Burnsville during AM commutes?” he asked.

Yes and no. MnPass signs include the hours that tolls are collected. On I-35W, the southbound lanes between 42nd Street to I-494 are tolled from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. But south of I-494, the southbound lanes are tolled only from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. On that segment of I-35W, yes Doug, you can use the HOT lane without fear of getting pulled over.

General hours of enforcement

For the record, here are the weekday hours that other MnPass lanes are in effect: Northbound I-35W from Crystal Lake Road to Hwy. 62 is tolled from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. North of the Crosstown tolls are collected from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

On I-35E between Little Canada Road and Cayuga Street, fees in southbound lanes are collected 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and northbound between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

On I-394, westbound lanes west of Hwy. 100 are tolled between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and eastbound lanes between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. The rules change on the reversible lanes east of Hwy. 100. They are tolled 24 hours with eastbound open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and westbound from 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. The lane is closed from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. for the directional switch-over. Hours may vary on weekends and when special events are scheduled.

When untolled, all motorists can use the MnPass lanes for free.

Bernard asked about the new double dotted lines that replaced the solid double white lines previously used to separate the HOT lane from general lanes on I-394.

“This configuration seems to encourage crossing into and out of the HOT lane whenever a driver wishes. Can the sane lane now be accessed at any point, rather than specific portions of the drive? It appears that the rules of use of the sane lanes are changing (with the exception of the reversible portion).”

Motorists can enter or leave the HOT lanes anywhere there is a double broken line or a single lane stripe such as on I-35W in south Minneapolis, said MnPass coordinator Bobbie Dahlke.

“We don’t want to restrict people who want to get on and off” the freeway. But, she said, drivers cannot cross solid double white lines. Solid lines appear in highly congested areas like I-394 at General Mills Boulevard and on I-35W through the Crosstown Commons.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.