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FOIA - Freedom of Information Act

FHWA FOIA Fees

As amended by the Freedom of Information Reform Act of 1986, the FOIA provides for three levels of fees that may be assessed in response to FOIA requests according to categories of FOIA requesters. Within each fee level, the statute provides for limitations on the types of fees that an agency may assess. An agency's determination of the appropriate fee level for an individual requester is dependent upon the identity of the requester and the intended use of the information sought. The limitations placed on the types of fees that may be assessed are not the statutory equivalent of fee "waivers"; rather, they are best characterized as statutory fee "limitations" in accordance with the structure of the statute.

The first level of fees encompasses charges for document search, review, and duplication, which are applicable "when records are requested for commercial use." The OMB Fee Guidelines define the term "commercial use" as "a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is being made," which can include furthering those interests through litigation. Designation of a requester as a "commercial-use requester," therefore, will turn on the use to which the requested information would be put, rather than on the identity of the requester.

The second level of fees limits charges to document duplication costs only, "when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research; or a representative of the news media." FOIA requesters falling into one or more of these three subcategories of requesters under the 1986 FOIA amendments enjoy a complete "exemption" from the assessment of search and review fees. Their requests, like those made by any FOIA requester, still must "reasonably describe" the records sought in order to not impose upon an agency an unreasonably burdensome search.

The third level of fees, which applies to all requesters who do not fall within either of the preceding two fee levels, consists of reasonable charges for document search and duplication.

Fees may be paid by check, draft, or money order, payable to the DOT component where fees were incurred, for deposit in the General Fund of the Treasury of the United States.

DOT will assess interest on an unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the day on which the notice of the amount due is first mailed to the requestor. The interest will be charged according to 31 U.S.C. 3717.

Fees will be assessed as follows:

The rates for manual searching, computer operator/programmer time and time spent reviewing records will be calculated based on the grades and rates established by the Washington-Baltimore Federal White-Collar General Pay Schedule or equivalent grades.

The standard fee for duplication of a requested record is determined as follows:

  1. Per copy of each page (not larger than 8.5 x 14 inches) reproduced by photocopy or similar means (includes costs of personnel and equipment) - US $0.10.

  2. Per copy prepared by computer such as tapes or printouts - actual costs, including operator time.

  3. Per copy prepared by any other method of duplication - actual direct cost of production.

The following special services not required by FOIA may be made available upon request, at the stated fees: Certified copies of documents, with DOT or DOT component seal (where authorized) - US $10.00; or true copy, without seal - US $5.00.

Please mail all payments for FOIA fees to the following address:

DOT/FHWA
c/o ESC, AMZ-300
PO BOX 268865
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK 73125

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