Infrared cameras assist state patrol identify MnPASS violators

The initial testing of the MnPASS Enforcement Assistance System (EASy) began mid-July 2017. 

Located over the MnPASS lane on I-35W and Black Dog Road, the system detects the presence of a vehicle in the MnPASS lane and verifies if the vehicle has a valid MnPASS tag attached to the windshield. If a valid tag is not detected, the camera takes a picture of the vehicle. The image is sent to the trooper parked down the road where the trooper will determine if the motorist is driving in the lane illegally. A solo motorists is driving in the lane illegally if he/she does not have a valid MnPASS tag in the windshield. Vehicles with two or more occupants including children and infants can drive in the lane for free. Although vehicles with two or more occupants do not need a MnPASS tag to drive in the lanes, motorists are encouraged to get a MnPASS tag for days when the driver is the only person in the vehicle.  

The system will not be used to issue citations. Because there isn’t technology to identify a vehicle or a license plate, it is not possible to use the system to issue citations. Additionally, mechanisms for archiving, searching or retrieving images do not exist and the photos will ne be used as evidence. Troopers must still pursue and examine a suspected violator before issuing a citation. The system's function is observing vehicles in the MnPASS lane, in real time. 

EASy offers several advantages over a single trooper manually observing vehicles or a two-trooper team, such as:

  • Enhanced safety – troopers have the flexibility to monitor for HOV violators while parked at a safe observation point rather than looking for violators while driving or parked on a narrow inside shoulder.
  • Improved operations efficiency – EASy reduces the number of “false” stops that unnecessarily occupy a trooper’s time by displaying only vehicles without valid tag reads. Efficient uses of resources – costs are reduced by requiring only one trooper to observe the lane.
  • Improved efficiency in low-light conditions – troopers have difficulties detecting HOV violations in low-light conditions. EASy allows for better detection during early morning and late afternoon hours during winter months.

What’s next?

MnDOT will continue testing the EASy system through May 2018 to determine its effectiveness through the winter months. Should the system prove to be effective, MnDOT would consider permanent installations on all three MnPASS corridors.

Protecting the integrity and safety of the MnPASS lanes

MnDOT has a two-year contract with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Patrol Office that dedicates six state patrol officers to enforce the MnPASS Express Lanes during peak-travel times.  

The state troopers will monitor the MnPASS Express Lanes on I-35E, I-394 and on I-35W during the morning and afternoon peak-travel times. Motorists should expect to see at least one trooper in each MnPASS lane during the morning and evening commute times.

The troopers will primarily enforce the MnPASS lane but they will not ignore other violations such as expired license tabs, speeding or erratic driving. It is also illegal to cross solid, double-white lines and the troopers will watch for this.

During peak-travel times, troopers identify vehicles that do not have a MnPASS tag attached to the windshield/license plate. They will then look for whether there is another occupant in the car. If there isn't another occupant in the car, the driver risks being pulled over and getting a citation. Occupants include children and infants, but do not include pets.

Depending on the county in which they are issued, citations can cost up to $300.