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MnDOT study evaluates tolling feasibility

ST. PAUL — The transportation corridor nearest to Mower County included in a toll road feasibility study is Highway 52 between Rochester and St. Paul.

That doesn’t necessarily mean toll booths will be going up anytime soon, however, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released a study on Friday that examines the feasibility of broader tolling in the state.

“The study is not a plan to implement tolling in Minnesota, but rather an analysis of tolling and its implications,” said Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle in a news release.

In 2017, the Republican-controlled Legislature required MnDOT to look at modern tolling practices in other states, and the policy and legal considerations and a traffic and revenue analysis in Minnesota, according to the release.

Potentially, the Hwy. 52 corridor, at 68 miles, would produce more than $2 billion in gross revenue over 30 years, according to the report. The Interstate 94 urban corridor that travels 51 miles from west of Minneapolis to the Wisconsin border would produce the most gross revenue at more than $5 billion.

The news release also said that the goal of the study was to evaluate the ability of certain rural and urban corridors to generate toll revenue. The selected interstate and trunk highways represent typical corridors to provide revenue estimates and shouldn’t be perceived as recommended corridors, Zelle said.

The corridors are between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, Duluth and Rochester. Much of the toll road possibilities studied are within the Twin Cities.

Although the study presents the framework and analysis of estimated costs and revenue, and summarizes policies and other legal issues, MnDOT concluded that a more detailed study would be needed before any decision could be made to implement a specific toll project.

“Any implementation of tolling requires a balanced approach that aligns the goals of the projects with the needs of the users and the transportation network,” Zelle said. “This study is a high-level assessment for decision-makers on whether to advance more detailed studies of toll feasibility on specific corridors. It’s intended to provide an understanding of potential revenue and policy issues and is not sufficient to support implementation.”

Among the other issues MnDOT considered in the study were current state and federal laws that restrict how tolling revenue can be collected and used, as well as the public’s opposition toward tolling, including privacy issues around automated enforcement.

The Legislature required that this study evaluate tolling as a transportation funding source by converting existing general purpose lanes of the studied corridors to toll lanes. The MnDOT report can be found at www.dot.state.mn.us/govrel/reports/2018/tolling-study-report.pdf

Minnesota currently has toll facilities as part of the MnPASS network, which is designed to manage and reduce congestion.