Officials say new lanes, express buses on 35W popular

Express buses
Express buses will have double wide lanes on two streets, 2nd Avenue and Marquette Avenue, beginning Dec. 10 allowing full buses to pull out and pass buses waiting for passengers, eliminating a delay for suburban express bus riders.
MPR Photo/Dan Olson

State officials say the new toll, or congestion pricing lane, available on 35W starting this week is popular.

Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioner Tom Sorel said people are enrolling for the chance to drive in the MnPass lane of southbound 35W from southern suburbs to downtown Minneapolis. Commuters pay anywhere from 25 cents to $8 a trip depending on traffic volume.

Drivers will be able to travel at 50 mph even at rush hours. MnPass customers will share the lane with car poolers and buses. Sorel said the growth of 35W MnPass customers reflects the popularity of the service where it was begun 4 years ago on I-394.

"As of today, we think we have about 1,400 new accounts to MnPass because of 35W and we're well over 14,000 accounts for the MnPass system," Sorel said. "So it's a great foundation on which to build upon."

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The MnPass service is part of a large makeover of 35W which includes new express bus service and additional suburban park and ride capacity.

The express bus service from Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis started Monday morning with dozens of first-time passengers.

The new park and ride facility at Kenrick Avenue in Lakeville is still under construction. Even so, new Metro Transit coach buses started ferrying commuters from the facility.

Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell said the Lakeville service has buses joining car poolers in a faster lane on 35W.

"This 750-space facility is served by Metro Transit's new route 467, which began service this morning, and this morning we had 144 new customers to that service," Bell said.

A federal grant matched by state money totaling $188 million is paying part of the cost of the 35W makeover. Commuters can expect to see more results next year when the rebuilding of the Crosstown interchange is complete at a cost of $288 million.