Chart of the Day: Revenue Projections from MnDOT Freeway Tolls

As far as I know, Minnesota hasn’t had tolling since the Rock Island Swing Bridge connecting Inver Grove and Newport closed in 1999. (Wow, I would have loved to have driven over that bridge, and gladly paid the 75¢ toll.)

But via KARE 11, MnDOT just completed a report estimating revenues from a hypothetical freeway tolling program that might place tolls on key freeways like Interstates 94 and 35(W) and US highways 169, 610, and 52. [See map at bottom of this post.]

Here’s the results of the potential tolling.

At the very least, it’s a keen thought experiment about what could be done with this kind of funding source, and what the effects of tolling these major freeways might be. How much would it reduce driving? What kind of unintended consequences would emerge from this particular plan, as drivers sought to escape tolls?

Also, what kinds of things could you do with the billions of dollars a year in revenue? If Minnesota wanted to get serious about reducing CO2 emissions, there are a lot of programs I could think of…

Feel free to speculate! Check out the whole report here.

(PS. Of course this won’t happen in the current political climate.)

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10 Responses to Chart of the Day: Revenue Projections from MnDOT Freeway Tolls

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 27, 2018 at 11:30 am #

    I would obviously start with tolling 394, which for some reason isn’t done here.

  2. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele February 27, 2018 at 3:56 pm #

    We shouldn’t use revenue to justify tolling (though it will be nice when we inevitably realize we can’t afford what we’ve built without it).

    Instead, we should set prices based on performance standards. Think Donald Shoup applied to congestion pricing. The price should be apolitical.

  3. Monte Castleman February 27, 2018 at 4:29 pm #

    Not completely in Minnesota, but tolls weren’t removed from the 12th Ave bridge between Fargo and Moorhead until 2014, and still exist on the International Falls bridge ($6.00 northbound only)

  4. Eric Ecklund February 28, 2018 at 10:58 am #

    If a certain percentage of the revenue goes to transit, I’m all for it.

    Every once in awhile I use some of these freeways, but 169 I use on a daily basis between Bloomington and Shakopee. I know the area, so there’s a good chance I would avoid the toll by going to the TH101 Bridge between Shakopee and Chaska (though optimally there would be much better transit, so I wouldn’t have to drive at all). However in other areas I don’t know the possible alternative routes, so if I need to be somewhere I’m not going to waste time trying to find them and I’ll just pay the toll. That of course is just my perspective, so we do need to worry about thousands of motorists flying down residential streets to avoid the toll while still trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible like in Edina neighborhoods when part of 169 was closed.

    I’m surprised the 494/694 beltway isn’t included. I wonder what the cost and revenue would be if that was tolled?

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 28, 2018 at 11:10 am #

      Wouldn’t that be amazing? If we are serious about climate change, tolling freeways and funding lower-carbon alternatives with the revenue is the way to do it. Like having a Highway 52 toll help construction of a train to Rochester…

    • Andy E February 28, 2018 at 8:07 pm #

      My thoughts on this are that you would want to avoid tolling 494/696 (The Ring) to encourage people going from one side of the metro to the other to go around. Sure, that may increase on the margins fuel consumption, but I think the benefits would outweigh the negatives.

      Primarily, if 35E, 35W, 94, and 394 were tolled within The Ring (perhaps even with congestion pricing) there would be more encouragement for people to use transit. Fewer cars on these inner highways would make it politically easier to create bus only lanes, as well as reduce repair costs and reduce the demand for highway expansion.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke March 1, 2018 at 9:14 am #

        Agreed. Also putting dedicated bus lanes alongside the toll system would really make a difference!

  5. Monte Castleman February 28, 2018 at 11:41 am #

    I’m not a fan of any kind of sales taxes or user fees to fund government services due to their regressive nature, but the reality is that it’s not possible politically to fund our roads, state parks, and whatnot with just income and property taxes.

    If you’ve been around a while you might remember the mid 1990s “Transmart” project. There was a plan to partner with private agencies to build toll roads, there were 5 proposals. After initial signals of support from local governments, the initial project selected for consideration was the new US 212, but then Eden Prairie reversed themselves and vetoed it after backlash from constituents. This killed both the project and any others, since Mn/DOT and private companies were loath to sink any more money into any more projects if there was a chance this would happen again.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke February 28, 2018 at 12:01 pm #

      Never send to know for whom the road tolls; it tolls for thee.

  6. Sheldon Gitis February 28, 2018 at 5:30 pm #

    What’s the toll for the daily crashes on MnDOT freeways? Maybe KARE11/Streets.MN could chart that data. Maybe it’s time to start charging an appropriate toll, say $5000/incident or whatever the actual costs, every time some idiot slams into the back of the vehicle in front of them.

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