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Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users

Location: Washington, DC

TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (Extensions of Remarks - March 16, 2005)



The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 3) to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes.

Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise to express my support for language in H.R. 3 which would permit states to exempt certain hybrid vehicles from high occupancy vehicle regulations.

The legislation provides that alternative fuel vehicles as well as vehicles that achieve a highway fuel economy rating of 45 miles per gallon or greater may be exempted from HOV requirements through September 29, 2009.

I would like to insert into the record a memo prepared at my request by the Congressional Research Service which analyzes the HOV provisions of H.R. 3 with respect to the treatment of hybrid vehicles.

It is important to note that based on my conversations with the authors of this legislation as well as this memo, the language of H.R. 3 would permit states the flexibility regulate when and where hybrid vehicles would be exempt from HOV regulations within the state.
Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important that the States have the flexibility to regulate the hybrid use of HOV lanes within their state--both in terms of where hybrids will be permitted in HOV lanes and when they may be permitted. The language in H.R. 3 seems to achieve this purpose.

Congressional Research Service,

Washington, DC, March 9, 2005.


As you requested, this memorandum provides an analysis of the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) provisions in the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (H.R. 3), as reported in the House. Specifically, you asked about the treatment of hybrid vehicles in H.R. 3.

Section 1208 of the bill adds a new Section 168 to Title 23 of the United States Code. Section 18(b)(4) would allow--but not require--states to exempt ``low emission and energy efficient vehicles'' from HOV requirements through September 29, 2009. The bill does not specifically address hybrid vehicles: instead, the bill provides that alternative fuel vehicles as well as vehicles that achieve a highway fuel economy rating of 45 miles per gallon or greater may be exempted. Eligible vehicles must also meet the new Tier 2 light vehicle emissions standards, and must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. It should be noted that a state must actively establish a program to exempt vehicles--the exemption is not automatic.

Further, you asked whether states would have the authority to exempt vehicles from specific HOV lanes at specific times, or whether the state would be required to exempt vehicles from all HOV lanes. The section on vehicle exemptions states that ``the State agency may allow vehicles certified as low emission and energy-efficient vehicles ..... to use the HOV facility .....'' In this and several other subsections, the bill refers to an ``HOV facility'' in the singular. The Federal Highway Administration treats every separate section of highway as a separate ``HOV facility.'' For example, in Virginia the HOV lanes outside of the Capital Beltway in Interstate 66, the lanes inside of the beltway on I-66, and the lanes on I-95/I-395 are all treated as separate facilities. The restrictions on time and minimum occupancy differ for all three facilities. Because of these distinctions, it appears that states could choose to exempt vehicles from one facility (i.e. highway) and not another.

What is less clear is whether states could designate specific lanes (within a facility) and times. The bill requires states to ``establishes procedures for enforcing the restrictions on the use of the facility by such vehicles.'' This would seem to grant the state latitude in determining when and where low emission and energy efficient vehicles could be exempted from the HOV restrictions. However, allowing compliant vehicles exemptions at some times but not others--or in some lanes but not others--would add a level of complexity to the enforcement of HOV restrictions. It therefore seems an open question whether states would choose to exempt compliant vehicles from restrictions on all state HOV facilities, or on specific facilities without specifying which lanes could be used or at what time.

It should be noted that H.R. 3, as introduced, would have required states to charge tolls for all vehicles exempted from the HOV restrictions. The version as reported allows such tolls, but does not require them. It should also be noted that states would be required to limit or discontinue the exemptions, if they were found to decrease traffic flow along the HOV lanes.


Brad Yacobucci,
Specialist in Energy Policy Resources,

Sciences and Industry Division.

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