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Hot Lanes, Cool Travel

Using Toll Lanes to Ease Congestion in Minnesota

To address traffic and congestion issues in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, USA, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) sought to expand use of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes serving the Minneapolis metropolitan area. We partnered with Mn/DOT to design, develop, implement and operate the MnPASS express lane system, which offers additional capacity of existing HOV lanes to single occupant vehicles using an innovative new tolling design. This dynamically priced system—the first of its kind in the area—helps manage road use during peak hours and eases congestion for tolled and non-tolled users.

Solo motorists are now able to use HOV lanes by paying a dynamically priced toll based on real-time traffic patterns that are reassessed every 3 minutes. 

Mn/DOT converted HOV lanes in the heavily traveled Interstate 394 (I-394) and I-35W corridors to new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. These HOT lanes offer motorists improved roadway access using a fully electronic tolling system that avoids congestion in general purpose lanes and increased carbon emissions caused by tollbooths. Solo motorists are now able to travel in the HOT lanes using a MnPASS transponder to pay a dynamically priced toll based on real-time traffic patterns that are reassessed every 3 minutes. Car pools with two or more occupants, motorcycles and transit buses can continue to use the HOT lanes free of charge.

Building on years of experience in the tolling industry, we led the team in developing the HOT lanes system integration and toll operations plan. We teamed with Mn/DOT to design the toll system, review traffic and revenue analysis, and develop the dynamic pricing algorithms. As prime contractor, we participated in every level of the project from initial public outreach to highway patrol officer training and ongoing operations management.

This $24 million project began in 2004, with HOT lanes opening on I-394 in May 2005 and I-35W in November 2010. With more than 1 million annual trips in the HOT lanes, expansion of the MnPASS system is expected to continue.

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Minnesota Department of Transportation