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FOIA - Freedom of Information Act

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Guide

  1. General
  2. Document Inspection Facilities
  3. Motor Carrier-Related Records
  4. FHWA Records
  5. How to make a FOIA request
  6. Fees
  7. Determinations Not to Release Records
  8. Appeal information

  1. General.The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, requires Executive Branch agencies to make certain organizational and policy records available to the public through publication in the Federal Register and other policy and adjudicatory records available in document inspection facilities ("reading rooms") for public inspection and copying. All other releasable records must be made available promptly upon request.

    This document describes the location and hours of operation of the document inspection facilities ("reading rooms") of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); the kinds of records that are available for public inspection and copying at these facilities; and the procedures by which members of the public may make requests for records.

  2. Document Inspection Facilities. Document inspection facilities are maintained at the Federal Highway Administration Headquarters, each division office, and each resource center. Except for legal public holidays and other special closings, these facilities are open to the public, Monday through Friday, during regular working hours, which are included after each address below. Additionally, a number of FHWA publications and other documents are available via the FHWA Home Page (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov).

    Written requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act should be sent to the appropriate field or Headquarters office, and the envelope in which the request is sent should be prominently marked with the letters "FOIA". Additionally, FOIA requests for FHWA Headquarters records may be submitted via e-mail to FHWA Headquarters at the following address: foia.officer@fhwa.dot.gov. Please include your name, current electronic mail address, a mailing address (U.S. mail), and a telephone number where you can be reached during business hours.

    1. Washington Headquarters

      FOIA Officer (HCC-40), Federal Highway Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE; Washington, D.C., 20590-9898. 7:45 a.m.-4:15 p.m. ET.

    2. Federal-aid Division Offices, Federal Lands Division Offices, and Resource Centers

  3. Motor Carrier-Related Records. Congress passed legislation to create within the Department of Transportation a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). As of January 1, 2000, DOT's motor carrier responsibilities were transferred from FHWA to the new FMCSA. To obtain motor carrier related documents, you may contact the FMCSA via the web ( http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov), mail (FOIA Team, MCMMI, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. 20590), or Fax (202-385-2335).

  4. FHWA Records. See the FHWA Home Page (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov)and FHWA Electronic Reading Room (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pubstats.html) for documents available without submitting a FOIA request. For documents not found there, see below:

    1. Examples of records for which requests may properly be made to the FHWA Federal-aid Division Offices (see addresses in paragraph 2):

        (1) Copies of records pertaining to specific Federal-aid highway projects.

        (2) Copies of environmental studies for Federal-aid highway projects.

    2. Examples of records for which requests may properly be made to the appropriate FHWA Federal Lands Highway (FLH) Division Offices:

        (1) FLH project records.

        (2) FLH contract files.

    3. For general information regarding FHWA's Federal Lands Highway program, you may access their web page at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/flh/index.htm.

    4. Examples of records for which requests may properly be made to the FHWA Headquarters FOIA office:

        (1) Copies of contracts or solicitations.

        (2) Any policy or interpretation issued by the Federal Highway Administration, including any policy or interpretation concerning a particular factual situation, if that policy or interpretation can reasonably be expected to have precedential value in any case involving a member of the public in a similar situation.

        (3) Listing of agency small purchase credit card holders.

    5. The following records are generally available through all Federal Highway Administration document inspection facilities (many are also available from FHWA's home page), with the exception of Federal Lands Highway Division Offices. (Note: Although these documents are available for inspection and copying in the various "reading room's" to obtain an actual bound version of a manual, you may need to purchase a copy outside of the FOIA process.)

        (1) FHWA Manuals, issued by the Federal Highway Administration and containing detailed procedures, standards, and guides relating to the administration of the Federal-aid Highway Program, the Federal Lands Highway Program, and the Highway Safety Program. They include the following:

          (a) Federal-Aid Policy Guide (FAPG), an organized, looseleaf, single source documentation of the FHWA's current policies, regulations and nonregulatory procedural guidance information related to the Federal-aid Highway Program.

          (b) Labor Compliance Manual, used as a guide in Federal-aid Highway Program and Federal Lands Highway Program construction projects, to assure compliance with federal labor laws by the highway construction contractors.

          (c) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a publication of the Federal Highway Administration, setting forth basic principles that govern the design and usage of traffic control devices, and current traffic control device design and application standards.

          (d) Standard Specifications for Construction of Roads and Bridges on Federal Highway Projects, FP-96, contains the specifications for Federal Lands Highway Program construction projects. (Available in the Headquarters and Federal Lands Highway Program division offices document inspection facilities.)

          (e) U.S. DOT FHWA Federal Lands Construction Manual, used as a guide for the construction of roads and bridges within federally owned and administered parks and lands. (Available in the Headquarters and Federal Lands Highway Program division offices document inspection facilities.)

          (f) Emergency Relief Manual, providing instructions on procedures for FHWA, State, and local highway agency personnel involved in Federal-aid Highway system emergencies (severe damage to highways as a result of a major catastrophe or natural disaster), including guidance for evaluating damage and preparing the documents necessary to support the use of Emergency Relief (ER) funds.

          (g) Emergency Relief Manual for Federally Owned Roads - Disaster Assistance Manual, containing detailed program guidance for the administration of emergency relief for Federal roads, i.e., roads and trails administered by the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Defense. (Available in the Headquarters and Federal Lands Highway Program division offices' document inspection facilities. Some division offices may have copies.)

          (h) Federal Lands Highway Project Development and Design Manual, provides information and guidance to engineering staffs involved with project development and design of highways. Identifies those standards, specifications, guides, and references approved for use in carrying out the highway and bridge design responsibilities in the Federal Lands Highway Program.

        (2) Guidelines/determinations - guidelines or determinations containing details of compliance programs, accident investigations, enforcement programs, and interpretations.

          (a) Environmental Guidebook, a comprehensive, compilation of interpretations of the environmental regulations and environmental law, federal government-wide, with procedural guidance, policy memos, and implementation instructions. (Complete files available in the Washington headquarters document inspection facility.)

          (b) Highway Safety Guidelines - highway-related guidelines applying to those provisions of the State and Community Highway Safety Program under the Highway Safety Act of 1966 (Title 23, U.S. Code, Chapter 4) and delegations of authority by the Secretary of Transportation, for which responsibility resides in the FHWA.

  5. How to Make a FOIA Request. Each person desiring to inspect a record, or to obtain a copy thereof, should submit a request, in writing, to the appropriate Federal Highway Administration official at the address listed in paragraph 2, Document Inspection Facilities. If it is not known where in FHWA the record(s) sought may be found, the request may be submitted to the FOIA Program Officer, Washington Headquarters, at the address given in paragraph 2, Document Inspection Facilities, above. All requests pertaining to the Motor Carrier Program should be submitted to the FMCSA FOIA Program Officer at the Washington Headquarters (see paragraph 3 - Motor Carrier-Related Records).

  6. Fees. There is no initial fee to make a FOIA request, and in many cases no fees are charged. However, agencies are authorized by law to recover the direct costs of providing information to a FOIA requester. For purposes of fees only, the FOIA divides requesters into three categories: (a) commercial use requesters; (b) news media, educational, or scientific requesters; and (c) all other requesters.

      Commercial use requesters are charged for: (1) search time, (2) document review, and (3) duplication.

      News media, educational, or scientific requesters are charged for duplication only, after the first 100 pages (which are free).

      All other requesters are charged for search time, after first 2 hours (which are free) and duplication, after 100 pages (which are free).

    Search and review time are charged 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.

    Duplication fees are charged as follows:

    Paper reproduction - 10 cents per page (up to 8 ½ x 14")
    Computer tapes and print-outs - direct costs and labor costs

  7. Determinations Not To Release Records. Authority to issue initial determinations, including initial denials of access to records and of fee waivers or fee waiver reductions has been delegated to all Associate Administrators, Chief Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, Directors of Field Services, Resource Center Director, Division Administrators, and FLH Division Engineers. Each of these officials is also authorized to re-delegate this authority to subordinate officials.

  8. Appeal Information. Any person who has been notified that a record or part of a record that has been requested will not be disclosed, or could not be found, or that a request for a fee waiver or reduction will not be granted, may appeal, in writing, to the Associate Administrator for Administration (E66-320), Federal Highway Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, 20590-9898, for reconsideration of the determination. A copy of the appeal letter should be simultaneously sent to the office which made the initial determination in order to facilitate a timely response. The decision of the Associate Administrator for Administration is administratively final.

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