Governor OKs free toll lane access for clean cars

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HOV lane symbol

HOV lane symbol (AP image)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that he signed a bill that will allow the next generation of clean-energy vehicles to access California carpool lanes for free if they are converted to toll lanes. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego are experimenting with high-occupancy toll lanes – or HOT lanes – to help reduce congestion.

Brown signed AB2405 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, which seeks to encourage Californians to buy plug-in hybrids and certified zero-emission vehicles, such as those that run on electricity, hydrogen fuel cells or compressed natural gas.

Access to carpool lanes for solo drivers of hybrid vehicles, which run on gasoline and batteries, was phased out last year. The Department of Motor Vehicles issues stickers to designate qualified clean air vehicles that grant solo drivers access to existing carpool lanes.

As of May, the DMV issued about 19,000 white stickers for certified zero-emission vehicles and about 100 green stickers for plug-in hybrid cars. There is no cap on the number of white stickers while there is a limit of 40,000 green stickers. Yellow stickers for hybrid cars are no longer valid.

Currently there are just a handful of HOT lanes in California, including a 14-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 680 in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, and a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in San Diego County.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is testing a pilot project of HOT lanes on interstates 10 and 110. And the San Francisco Bay area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission is developing a regional HOT network.

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