Friday, August 05, 2005

Glitch may delay hybrid access to carpools

A conflict between State and Federal laws may delay the granting of access to carpool lanes for Hybrid drivers.

Owners of hybrid cars are fast approaching the day when they will be allowed to drive solo in California's car pool lanes.

State lawmakers passed a bill last year that gave some types of the high-mileage, low-emission vehicles access to the coveted lanes, a privilege meant to encourage drivers to buy the environmentally friendly cars.

California's law was to take effect Jan. 1 but first needed approval from the federal government.

That permission was tucked into a $286 billion transportation bill Congress passed last week, meaning there is one last strand of red tape keeping hybrids out of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes: State air regulators need to clarify which vehicles meet the mileage and emissions standards.

Ironically, the federal waiver would not have happened were it not for Schwarzenegger signing legislation to allow hybrids in carpool lanes, however, California won't get to make the change immediately because of its variant standards.