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Minnesota Opinion: On toll roads

An excerpt from recent editorials in Minnesota newspapers:

On toll roads:

As much as toll roads may not seem part of the Minnesota transportation funding tradition, they are providing necessary, if only temporary, relief to the state's major transportation fund-ing problems. And they are helping with burgeoning traffic congestion in the metro area.

A new MnPASS Express Lane will open Sept. 30 on Interstate 35W from Burnsville to down-town Minneapolis. These lanes provide quicker access to downtown for those willing to pay a toll, or in this case, have a transponder placed on the dash that can be read electronically. While those carpooling and transit buses have been able to use these so called "fast lanes" for free, MnDOT has offered the toll service to drivers-only vehicle traffic.

The first express lanes opened on Interstate 394 in 2005 and, according to MnDOT, have had "much success." MnDOT is even offering a deal with the new express lane. It will give $25 free toll credits for those who sign up before Oct. 31. The agency has also created incentives for people to ride metro transit buses and use other forms of mass transit.

Relieving congestion with express lanes serves not only the traveling public who may want to get to their destination more quickly, but also helps the environment by reducing emissions from cars idling in traffic congestion. If there's less congestion on the highways, there's less idling cars and we can therefore reduce our gasoline consumption.

The express lane can serve as an option in Minnesota's transportation mix. The idea of mo-torists paying for specific transportation benefits beyond the basics also has merit. The question will be if we can keep using Band-Aids like express lanes to relieve congestion that has become a more chronic problem, and will require more heavy duty solutions like expanding roads and mass transit.

-- The Free Press of Mankato