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High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes

Fact Sheet for Highway Provisions in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

Program Purpose

SAFETEA-LU enhances and clarifies provisions governing the use and operation of HOV lanes.

Statutory References

SAFETEA-LU Section(s): 1121
Other: 23 USC 102

Program Features

Replaces 23 USC 102(a) relating to HOV passenger requirements. A State agency with jurisdiction over the operation of a HOV facility shall establish occupancy requirements for HOV lanes, allowing no fewer than two vehicles with the following exceptions:

  • motorcycles and bicycles -- must allow motorcycles and bicycles to use the HOV facility, unless either or both create a safety hazard. If so, State must certify, Secretary must accept certification, and it must be published in the Federal Register with opportunity for public comment;
  • public transportation vehicles - may allow public transportation vehicles, if vehicle identification requirements are established and enforced;
  • high occupancy toll (HOT) vehicles - may allow vehicles that are not otherwise exempt to use the facility if the vehicles pay a toll; program must be established to address enrollment and participation; automatic toll collection required; procedures must be established for variable pricing and enforcement;
  • inherently low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles - before 9/30/2009, may allow inherently low-emission vehicles to use HOV facility if procedures for enforcing restrictions on use are established; vehicles must be certified and labeled under title 40,CFR;
  • other low emission and energy-efficient vehicles -- before 9/30/2009, may allow low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles to use the facility if they pay a toll; vehicles must be certified and labeled by EPA; program must be established for vehicle selection and enforcement of restrictions on use of facility. State agency may charge "no toll," or toll that is less than tolls charged for public transportation vehicles.

Excess toll revenues. Priority consideration for use of toll revenues shall be given to projects for developing alternatives to single occupancy vehicle travel and for improving highway safety.

HOV facility management, operation, monitoring, and enforcement. State agency that chooses to allow the exceptions to HOV requirements must certify to the Secretary that they have established a program to monitor, assess, and report on the operation of the facility and the impact of high occupancy toll vehicles and other low emission and energy efficient vehicles. An adequate enforcement program is also required, and provision made for limiting or discontinuing the exemption(s) if the facility becomes seriously degraded. *

*degraded facility - an HOV facility is considered degraded if vehicles operating on it are failing to maintain a minimum average operating speed 90% of the time over a consecutive 180-day period during morning and/or evening weekday peak hours. (minimum average operating speed is defined as 45mph in a 50-mph zone, or 10mph below limit when limit is less than 50mph) State may make mileage requirements more restrictive than specified in SAFETEA-LU when managing use by low emission and energy-efficient vehicles.

EPA final rule. Within 180 days of enactment, EPA must issue a final rule establishing requirements for certification of vehicles as low emission and energy-efficient, and requirements for labeling vehicles. EPA must also establish guidelines and procedures for making vehicle comparisons and performance calculations.

Definitions. Provides definitions for alternative fuel vehicle, HOV facility, low emission and energy-efficient vehicle, public transportation vehicle, State agency.

Sense of Congress. States should provide incentives for purchase and use of hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles.

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