New equipment and expansion plans for MnPASS

Construction season for Minnesota roads is underway and many drivers are anxious to use the MnPASS lanes, but a shortage in the equipment needed is keeping them from doing so. The problem was supposed to be taken care of in April, but drivers are still waiting.

"There are two times when MnPASS increases, construction around the corridor or on the detour routes which is the case around 77 and when there is snow," MnPASS spokesperson Bobbie Dahlke said.

Proving to be true again this construction season, roughly 2,000 drivers are on a waiting list for MnPASS, including single drivers who want to drive in the pass lane, but can't.

Since March MnDOT's website has been driving people away due to a shortage in the toll reading equipment-- specifically the clips made in Israel, which attach to the inside of the windshield.

Dahlke says those 5,000 transponders came in, but one of the components inside them was becoming obsolete, making the entire system is obsolete and impossible to find replacement parts.

This fall MnDOT will be unveiling an overhaul to the system with new signs, new readers and new transponders. The system will include an option drivers don't take on and off and one that can be switched when the driver is alone or has passengers in the car.

"Some of the reasons we are doing that is because of the transponder issue. We want to have multiple venders for the transponders, what our customers will see is not they'll have choices," Dahlke said.

The old equipment will still work with the new system.

There are also plans to expand MnPASS to 35E in November and further down the road it will be compatible with similar systems, including Chicago, Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

"There is a lot of work that has to go into that before it's implemented, but that's what the goal is," Dahlke said.

About 25,000 drivers use MnPASS with an average of 500 new drivers signing up each month.

MnDOT says for some immediate relief a shipment of 2,000 transmitters is due next week that should cover the people currently on the waiting list.

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