WASHINGTON – The Federal Highway Administration has served notice that federally funded tolling authorities must charge over-the-road buses the same fees as public transit buses for using toll roads or waive the fees where applicable.
In a notice published in the Federal Register, FHWA said that changes to federal requirements related to high-occupancy vehicle facilities and the tolling of highways that were included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act passed by Congress in 2015 must be enforced by tolling agencies that receive federal aid for construction or operation of their facilities.
Tour and charter bus operators have been complaining that many tolling authorities have failed to implement the changes for OTRBs and were charging them higher fees.
In its notice, FHWA reiterated that the FAST Act required “that OTRBs that serve the public be provided access to the toll facility under the same rates, terms, and conditions as public transportation buses.”
The notice further states that OTRB operators should contact tolling agencies that have failed to implement the changes and request a refund of fees paid since the FAST Act was passed.
“If an OTRB entity believes equal access was not provided by a covered facility any time after December 4, 2015, that entity should contact the owner/operator of the facility to address this concern,” the notice states.
Ken Presley, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs and industry relations/COO for the United Motorcoach Association, said the action was good news for the motorcoach industry.
“I could not see any possible way FHWA could interpret the law in the FAST Act any other way and we have said all along that some of the toll authorities would be compelled to issue refunds,” Presley said.
“Regardless, it places the private motorcoach operations on par with subsidized transit to compete for commuter routes. It should also serve as a bridge for our members to work closer with public transit operations.”