MINNEPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Transportation is using a pilot program to crack down on people illegally using the carpool lane.
With less and less daylight ahead, it’s harder for law enforcement to catch people cheating the system in the MNpass lanes.
But a new infrared camera aims to add another set of eyes.
“This is just a camera system to help law enforcement more accurately make that determination whether or not there’s a violation,” said Brian Kary, MnDOT’s director of traffic operations.
The infrared camera was installed over Interstate 35W at Black Dog Road in Burnsville. It is part of the Enforcement Assistance System, a pilot program that launched this summer.
The goal is to make it easier for troopers to catch people illegally driving in the MNPass lanes.
“It is common to have some violation. We see violation rates of about 10 to 20 percent on average across the MNpass system,” Kary said.
That equates to hundreds of violators every single hour on each highway that has MNpass lanes.
The new technology snaps a picture of drivers who do not have a valid toll collecting tag.
Local law enforcement are sent information on how many people are in the car, or if the driver paid to use the lane.
“The camera system is not recording any images, it’s just taking an initial snapshot, providing that for the trooper downstream, and then the image is gone after that trooper sees that camera image,” he said.
But a ticket won’t be issued automatically. A trooper still has to confirm a violation and pull the driver over.
MnDOT originally planned for the test to run three months, but decided to wait until spring to do their final assessment.
“So far it’s showing a lot of promise, and the troopers are excited about it, and they think it will actually … be beneficial, and so that’s why they want to try it over the winter and definitely in those low light conditions,” Kary said.
To give you an idea of how much of a problem MNPass cheaters are, the Minnesota State Patrol issued more than 3.600 tickets and over 3,000 warnings between August 2016 and now.
And that’s only the people they were able to catch.