Pawlenty proposal would open carpool lanes for a fee

The fee would likely range from 50 cents to $4 per trip.

Commuter students said Wednesday they are skeptical of a new proposal by Gov. Tim Pawlenty that would open carpool lanes on Interstate Highway 394 to solo drivers willing to pay a fee.

“If the carpool lane was stopped-up and I was with my friend carpooling, I would be so mad,” said first-year student Cole LaFrance, who uses the I-394 carpool lanes on his commute to campus.

LaFrance said the proposal might ease overall traffic but would only be a temporary fix for a more complicated problem. He said police should start ticketing people who cause congestion by driving slowly in the left lane.

Beginning as early as December 2004, commuters going to and from the western suburbs will have the option of paying a toll for use of the I-394 carpool lanes.

Pawlenty spokeswoman Liz Bogut, also a former Daily employee, said the price would likely range from 50 cents to $4 per trip, depending on the amount of congestion. The greater the congestion in the lane, the greater the toll would be, allowing the system to be self-regulating, she said.

“I think it’s just a poor attempt by the Republican Party to put off mass transit,” said Matt Wolle, a commuter and graduate student. “Instead of rewarding people that do something good like carpooling, it’s rewarding the elite rich.”

Bogut said studies have shown that people of all income levels use toll lanes. The lanes would still be free to carpoolers and other vehicles currently using them.

“I’m a poor student,” commuter student Amber Estenson said. “I can’t afford to pay for gas, fixing my car and tolls.”