Congestion pricing lanes on I-35W
In 2005, nine miles of underutilized carpool lanes along Minnesota’s I-394 corridor were converted into toll lanes. Since then, the lanes have accommodated more than 940,000 vehicles every year, and 90 percent of users maintain a very high level of satisfaction. Passengers in the non-tolled lanes have experienced an increase in speed of about 6 percent. Almost all trips in the tolled lanes cost less than $2.50.
Because of the success of I-394’s conversion, the federal government provided the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation (MnDOT) with a $133 million grant to expand its congestion pricing program to I-35W. The federal grant, known as an Urban Partnership Agreement, was awarded to five cities to test congestion pricing techniques across the country. In order for congestion pricing – a tool that gives people travel choice, reduces congestion, improves mobility, and manages demand along a roadway – to work, it must be coupled with transit investments. Approximately 65 percent of this federal grant was allocated for transit projects along a congested corridor.
MnDOT built two new park-and-ride lots and expanded existing park-and-ride facilities, providing 2,900 new parking spaces for suburban transit riders. Minneapolis tripled its capacity for the number of buses, and reduced travel time by up to 10 minutes into downtown. With funds from the grant, MnDOT purchased 27 new buses and implemented a transit-only left turn lane in one of Minneapolis’ most congested corridors to provide more predictable and quicker rides.
The Chicago region loses $7.3 billion each year in wasted time, fuel and environmental damages due to congestion and is currently exploring congestion pricing on its roadways. Minnesota’s successful implementation of congestion pricing provides a good model for Chicagoland to learn from.