12/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tollway Green Lanes To Charge Drivers For Use?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Debra Salo maneuvered her Mercury Sable into the left lane of the busy expressway, joining cars and buses cruising at 50 m.p.h. while three other lanes plodded along, brake lights flashing.

Salo usually pays 50 cents, but sometimes $2, for the privilege of using the high-occupancy toll, or HOT, lane from the suburbs to her job in St. Paul.

Her experience could serve as a model for Chicago-area drivers who may get a similar system by 2010 under a proposal by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The Illinois tollway board is expected to green light the plan Thursday.

One lane on each of the four Chicago-area tollways would be reserved for ride-sharers and buses, which would pay the normal toll. Drivers of hybrids and other vehicles deemed "environmentally friendly" could use the lane if they pay an extra charge.

Motorists who drive alone also could use "the Green Lane" at an even higher toll, depending on congestion.

In operation since 2005, MnPASS (pronounced Min-pass) lanes that run 11 miles on Interstate Highway 394 have helped reduce peak-period congestion 50 percent, officials said.

"The heavier the traffic, the more you pay," said Salo, 47. "So it means I don't stop at Caribou [coffee] some mornings."

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