On September 3, 2004, the California legislature passed a bill allowing drivers of hybrid electric vehicles to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, even if the driver is the only occupant. In order to go into effect, the bill would have to be signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, after which the state would have to obtain federal approval because California’s 1,200 miles of HOV lanes were built using federal funds. The bill, AB 2628, requires the state to distribute decals to owners of hybrid vehicles that average at least 45 miles per gallon, up to a maximum of 75,000 vehicles. Virginia already has a program in place allowing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes, even with only one occupant. Similar legislation is included in the federal transportation bill now under consideration in the U.S. Congress, and has also been introduced in the state legislatures of Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington. The goal of the legislation is to encourage the purchase of hybrid vehicles, in order to achieve energy security benefits and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
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