Could tolls pay for road repair? Probably not, MnDOT says

Minnesota roads need fixing, that much is for certain. The question, really, for the state's Department of Transportation lies in how to pay for everything.

A new study presented to the state legislature Monday looked at the viability of toll roads and concluded that, while a possible way to increase revenue, the system will not provide all the funds they've deemed necessary to repair Minnesota's aging infrastructure. 

"The cost of reconstructing our highway is growing exponentially," Chris Roy of MnDoT said after the meeting. "Even though this might be a source of revenue, it will not cover the cost to reconstruct all of our highways."

To reach that conclusion, MnDoT looked at seven segments of road and estimated a toll of seven cents a mile for 30 years. Highway 610 clocked in as the lowest earning stretch, bringing in an estimated $250 million over that time span. Interstate 94, however, was projected to run nearly a billion dollar surplus, earning close to $3 billion while only requiring $2 billion for repairs.

Also included in the study was an audit of the MnPass system, which allows cars with two or more occupants to use special highway lanes during peak travel times for an extra fee. 

Although they do raise money, representatives from MNDoT cautioned that the program was never intended to raise revenue, simply to control traffic congestion during rush hour and other heavy traffic events.

"A single MnPass lane can carry twice as much traffic as a general purpose lane can during peak hour congestion," said Brian Kary of MnDoT. "The intent of MnPass is not to make money but to actually manage the traffic in that lane and add that advantage for transit and carpool vehicles."