Minnesota HOV Lane Restrictions

By John DeMerceau - Updated May 31, 2017
Car driving in HOV lane

Minnesota's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are express lanes for carpoolers, buses and motorcyclists. However, solo drivers may travel in these lanes after an MnPASS electronic transponder is installed. This device automatically deducts a toll from a prepaid account after a solo driver enters an HOV lane. MnPASS users have been able to drive in HOV lanes on Interstate 35W since Sept. 30, 2009. This came after the MnPASS for Interstate 394 was introduced on May 16, 2005. HOV lanes now are referred to as MnPASS lanes by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Free Use

Buses, motorcycles and carpools may use HOV lanes in Minnesota for free. A carpool is defined in state law as a ride-sharing agreement when two or more people travel in the same vehicle on a regular basis. This definition adds that children are considered lawful passengers. Therefore, a parent driving with a child can use HOV lanes for free.

Toll Paying (MnPASS) Use

A solo passenger who has installed an MnPASS transponder in his or her vehicle may drive in HOV lanes, which will be subject to automatic toll deduction or billing through the device. Tolls are computed based on traffic congestion at any given time, and these tolls can vary depending upon the time of day.

Time Restrictions

HOV lanes are open to general traffic from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. However drivers must enter the lanes from MnPass entry or exit points during these periods. It is forbidden to cross double white lines to change into these lanes. Violators are subject to a $142 fine. This does not apply to the "reversible" lanes between Highway 100 and Interstate 94. These lanes always operate on a toll system.

Toll Schedule and Regulations

The average toll costs $1 to $4. The maximum toll costs $8. Fees are posted at entrances to MnPASS lanes. Monthly leasing fees for an MnPASS transponder are $1.50 per unit, and the transponder may be removed when there is more than one passenger in the car.

Drivers who want to use MnPASS lanes on a toll basis must open prepaid MnPASS accounts. A sufficient balance must be maintained in the accounts to cover any toll before the lanes are used.

About the Author

John DeMerceau is an American expatriate entrepreneur, marketing analyst and Web developer. He now lives and works in southeast Asia, where he creates websites and branding/marketing reports for international clients. DeMerceau graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in history.

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