The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving the Twin Cities region of Minnesota $133.3 million in federal funds to help cut congestion along the I-35W corridor.

The funding is being made available through a program called Urban Partnerships, designed to encourage communities to embrace new approaches to cutting congestion. The funding commitment was made possible because state legislators recently provided transportation officials with the authority they need to implement their traffic fighting plan.

That plan includes converting existing car pool lanes on I-35W to allow single occupant drivers to also use them if they pay a fee, and extending the new lanes, known as High Occupancy Toll lanes.

The federal funds also will be used to purchase 26 new buses, speed wait times for buses at stoplights, and construct new park and ride facilities along the corridor. The plan also will finance new dynamic signs and real-time communications systems so drivers will be able to better avoid traffic or know when to choose transit.

The Urban Partnership Program is part of the Department's comprehensive initiative to address congestion throughout the nation's transportation system. In addition to the Twin Cities region, the Department has entered into partnerships with Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. New York City was at one time scheduled to receive funds through the program until the state Legislature blocked a controversial "congestion pricing" toll plan.