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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority is joining forces with Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, to push for more federal funding to pay for additional electric-powered buses.
"Buses aren't cheap and electric buses are quite a bit more than a regular diesel bus" — about $1 million each compared to $500,000, UTA Board Chairman Carlton Christensen said.
The transit agency used a $5.4 million federal grant to buy five electric buses for routes in downtown Salt Lake City and now hopes to add to its fleet with more money from Washington, D.C., Christensen said.
That's where McAdams comes in. The freshman congressman has asked the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to double the assistance available for the low- and no-emissions bus grant program in this year's funding bill.
"We want to clean our air, reduce our emissions, improve our air quality here in Utah. This is a great program," McAdams said, that not only encourages new ridership, it also makes for a cleaner-operating transit system.
Christensen and McAdams held a news conference Friday to talk about efforts to expand federal funding for the program.
UTA has taken delivery of three of the five electric buses purchased with the previous grant, Christensen said, noting it takes more than a year to receive the buses once they're ordered.
The new buses are expected to go into service in August, he said, in the Salt Lake City area as part of an agreement UTA entered into with the city to enhance transit service.
"They work well in that kind of an environment and the city was very interested in having them operate within the city," Christensen said, although the transit agency would like more electric buses for other routes.
"We're certainly looking for additional grants that would allow us to continue to add electric buses to our fleets," he said. UTA is currently building a new facility behind its downtown headquarters to better service electric and other alternative fuel buses.
McAdams said the bus grant program "has been put to great use here in Utah. We'd love to see it continue to expand."