Bloomington-Normal’s transit system will receive a $6 million federal grant to buy electric buses and support construction of a new downtown transfer center, officials announced Thursday.
The money comes from the Federal Transit Administration's Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Grant program. It will help Connect Transit replace 12 diesel buses with battery-powered, zero emission buses, said General Manager Isaac Thorne. Over a quarter of Connect Transit's bus fleet will be electric in three years, he said.
“The grant award will allow Connect Transit to convert our aging fleet from diesel to electric battery-powered buses as part of our strategic plan to embrace alternative fuel vehicles and reduce emissions,” Thorne said in a statement. “The battery electric buses will be a tremendous benefit to the Bloomington-Normal community.”
Up to $3 million of the grant can be used for the downtown Bloomington transfer center, Thorne said. The transfer center will be funded by combining federal and state grants over several years to pay for the construction, he said. Connect Transit already secured a $250,000 state grant for a feasibility/alternative site analysis.
The $6 million grant is one of the largest that Connect Transit has ever received, Thorne said.
"This grant funding could not have come at a better time. We are pushing to improve infrastructure at bus stops, and construct a critical connection point in Downtown Bloomington that has been part of Connect Transit’s strategic plan for many years," he said. "These improvements will allow us to better serve customers, allowing them to get to school, work, and shopping."
The money will also be used for new shelters and benches. In 2017, Connect Transit received a $1.5 million federal grant for three electric buses and solar arrays to offset the energy cost.
The grant was announced by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. His 13th Congressional District includes parts of Bloomington-Normal. He’s a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Investing in our smaller, public transit systems means investing in jobs and economic growth," Davis said in a statement. “I'm proud to see these communities receive these competitive grants, which allow them to upgrade their fleet, increase reliability, and become more efficient."
Editor’s note: Connect Transit Board Chairman Mike McCurdy is also GLT’s program director.
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