Traffic backups in
the Twin Cities metropolitan area can be bad – but not bad enough to prompt a
lot of drivers to pay to drive in congestion-free toll lanes, according to
early findings of a consulting study.
As a result, the
optional pay lanes proposed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would not pay for
themselves, the $474,000 study found.
Inc., the Massachusetts consultants hired by the Minnesota Department of
Transportation, will give a full public report by February on how Minnesota
could proceed with toll lanes as a way to expand roads and relieve congestion.
Looking for an answer
to increasingly congested roads and seeking to boost the state’s road-building
budget without raising the fuel tax, Pawlenty and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau
announced in December that the state would consider privately built lanes
financed with tolls.
Molnau, who also is
the state transportation commissioner, said she is undeterred by the early
“We knew we would
have to put up a percentage” of the cost, she told The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The full study will reveal how much.
She said tolls were
one way to have users voluntarily chip in for new lanes that are needed. And
having private firms put up some of the initial costs of construction would
leave the highway department with money to spend on other projects, she said.
The consultants are
studying proposals including radial toll lanes that would provide travel from
all four sides of the metro into Minneapolis and St. Paul; two versions of
tolls on extra lanes added to the Interstate 494-694 beltway; pay lanes on 10
freeway segments where congestion is especially bad; and tolls collected on
four future busways.
construction would start is 2006.
Much closer to
realization is a plan to turn the existing carpool-bus lanes on Interstate 394
west of Minneapolis into toll lanes. Those lanes, which are expected to open in
the spring, would enable solo drivers to pay a fee to use an express lane with
carpoolers and bus riders.