MnDOT to install beacons above MnPASS Express Lanes to help catch violators

Drivers use a MnPASS Express lane on a Twin Cities interstate.

Those hoping to skirt the rules and use MnPASS lanes illegally are more likely to be caught in 2021 as the Minnesota Department of Transportation works to install 24 new enforcement beacons this fall and winter.

Ten new beacons will be installed on I-35W, eight of them on I-394 and six of them on I-35E at a total cost of approximately $370,000.

The beacons shine blue and amber lights under certain overhead signs or bridges over MnPASS Express Lanes. These mechanisms alert State Patrol when a vehicle illegally uses the lane without a MnPASS tag.

MnDOT says MnPASS violations were up 15 percent in 2019.

When a vehicle in the MnPASS lane passes the beacon, it displays either a blue or amber light, indicating whether the vehicle has a tag or not.

Tests of the system in 2019 were successful in helping troopers identify which motorists were using the lanes lawfully.

Eight full-time troopers enforce the MnPASS lanes. In 2019, troopers stopped 12,648 cars for traffic violations, issuing 8,060 citations. 4,808 of those were MnPASS citations. 1,486 MnPASS warnings were also issued in that time.

MnPASS violation citations can cost up to $300 depending on the county.

During the pandemic, revenue from the MnPASS system has been down significantly.

MnPASS revenue has dropped drastically since the pandemic began. (Minnesota Department of Transportation)

In February 2020, a relatively normal amount of $376,963 was collected through the MnPASS system. In March, that number dipped to just $178,972. By April, that number was $12,770.

Revenue has risen slightly to $31,894 in August, but is still about 80 to 85 percent below normal.