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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

State and Local Policy Program

Congestion Pricing


Congestion Pricing – also known as value pricing, congestion charging, dynamic tolling, and managed lanes – includes a range of different tools that center on the theme of using peak-period tolls to reduce urban traffic congestion.  Because tolls are charged only on congested roads and only during peak periods, drivers are given a direct financial incentive to find different routes, modes, or times of day to travel.

Current implementations of this idea include varying charges by time of day on existing toll roads and bridges, opening select shoulder lanes to commuters willing to pay a variable charge, and allowing vehicles not reaching HOV thresholds the opportunity to buy access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes at a variable charge so as to keep these lanes free-flowing while maximizing throughput.

The State and Local Policy Program maintains the FHWA Congestion Pricing Pilot Program website.  In addition, interested parties are encouraged to subscribe to our Congestion Pricing listserv.

The “Rethinking Transportation Finance” roundtable series is designed for policymakers, stakeholders, and anyone interested in issues related to congestion pricing.  Roundtable events take place approximately every six months and touch upon a variety of topics, including various pricing schemes utilized in Europe and other U.S states.  Click here (embedded link) to access resources from previous “Rethinking Transportation Finance” roundtable events or to confirm the date, location, and agenda for our next event.

Project Description

Our previous work on congestion pricing has centered on two main objectives: educating policymakers and the public about congestion pricing (both locally and nationally), and developing a technical description and political support for a congestion pricing demonstration project in Minnesota.  These objectives were achieved in part with the 2005 opening of the I-394 MnPASS managed lane corridor.

The I-394 MnPASS (Phase II) project evolved as part of the 2004 Minnesota Value Pricing Demonstration and arose from the realization that opportunities existed for an integrated planning effort that went beyond the initial policy and physical corridor changes associated with the I-394 corridor HOV lane conversion.  Specifically, the State and Local Policy Program was charged with completing four distinct tasks:  (1) provide ongoing community planning and outreach activities; (2) conduct public opinion surveys and focus groups; (3) deliver a communications coordination plan; and (4) conduct local, regional, and national workshops.  More information on this project can be found in our I-394 MnPASS Phase II Report.

Growing support for congestion pricing initiatives among federal policymakers ultimately led to a second congestion pricing project in Minnesota – the I-35W MnPASS managed lane corridor extending south from Minneapolis.  This project emanated from the federal Urban Partnership Agreement program, an opportunity made possible through years of outreach, education, and advocacy.

Other useful resources and deliverables tied to the project include: our informational brochure I-394 MNPASS: A New Choice for Commuters; our Attitudinal Panel Survey Wave 2 Final Report; and our MnPASS Express Lanes powerpoint presentation.

The current project has two main objectives: Electronic tolling technology, which makes it possible to assess fees without stopping traffic, has been available and reliable for several years. Thus the major barrier to implementing congestion pricing is political. Much of the work of this project focuses around showing how popular concerns can be addressed, both in general and within the context of specific projects.

A new project will study the effects of applying a mileage-based fee directly to participating vehicles, rather than to the roads they drive on. This fee would be levied in lieu of other, more fixed or hidden charges such as vehicle registration or the gas tax.

Related Publications

Other Major Accomplishments

  • Congestion Pricing: A Cross-Case Synthesis of Lessons Learned, paper by Jennifer DuBord, presented at Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, 2001.
  • Convened and held four meetings of a citizen advisory task force, culminating in a proposal for a demonstration project, and in a summary report, Curbing Congestion.
  • Sponsored several major national conferences on congestion pricing, both for professionals in the field and for the general public.
  • Developed and maintain a major congestion pricing website and listserv.


This project follows much earlier research dating back to the early 1990s. These efforts have included theoretical analyses of the effects of pricing, production of the video "Buying Time," citizen outreach and survey efforts, and earlier attempts to develop a demonstration project. SLPP has also been the primary organizer of many regional and national congestion pricing conferences over this time, particularly congestion pricing workshops, committee proceedings, and events associated with the Transportation Review Board of the National Academies.