Colorado gets $50+ million for low-, zero-emissions transit projects

Matt Whittaker

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A hybrid bus in Denver in 2007.Wirawan Purwanto / Flickr

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Across Colorado) Six transit agencies across Colorado will receive more than $50 million in federal funds for low- and zero-emissions transportation projects, with Summit County receiving the lion’s share, state officials said Thursday.

The Federal Transit Administration awards – which are part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed last year and represent the largest ever of this type of federal funding to the state – will pay for a range of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, electricity, diesel, and gasoline. The grants will also help construct two facilities to support the cleaner energy fleets.

Here’s a breakdown of the awards:

  • Summit County gets more than $34 million to build a new transit charging, operations and storage facility to support a future zero emission bus fleet.
  • The Roaring Fork Transit Authority gets $5.7 million to buy 10 compressed natural gas and two diesel buses.
  • Mesa County gets $3.9 million to build a new bus maintenance facility and purchase four compressed natural gas buses.
  • The San Miguel Authority for Regional Transit gets $2.6 million to buy two 40-foot buses and three vans.
  •  Steamboat Springs gets $2.4 million, including a local $588,600 match, to buy three, 35-foot hybrid-electric buses and overhaul a regional commuter coach.
  • Vail gets $1.8 million to purchase two battery electric buses, associated charging infrastructure and workforce training.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will administer the Summit County, Roaring Fork, San Miguel, Steamboat Springs and Vail awards as pass-through grant agreements. The Federal Transit Administration will directly manage the Mesa County award. 

Summit County said in a separate statement the new bus facility will replace an aging facility.

“The proposed charging and operation bus facility aligns with the local climate action plan and Summit County's goal of reducing emissions from transportation 25% by 2030 and 91% by 2050,” the county said.

Meanwhile, Steamboat Springs said in a separate statement it would use the money to replace three diesel-powered buses at the end of their useful lives with the new diesel/electric buses that “have been proven to perform extremely well in the mountainous environment.”

The buses are run by electricity with a diesel generator that helps produce the electricity. The generator can be turned off when the batteries are full as well as downtown and at the city’s gondola base. 

For the commuter coach overhaul, the city plans to extend the nearly 20-year-old regional bus service vehicle by a decade with upgrades to the engine, transmission, suspension, air handling system and electronics. 

Although the funding includes money for diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles, those still save on greenhouse gas emissions because they are mass transit vehicles, CDOT spokesman Tim Hoover said.

“It's important to remember that [mass] transit of any kind is low emissions simply because you are significantly reducing the emissions per passenger mile,” he said. “Even carpooling reduces emissions in this respect. The least emissions-reducing vehicles are single-occupancy vehicles that run on fossil fuels.”

This transit funding is separate from the $57 million the state has asked the Federal Highway Administration for over the next five years to beef up charging locations along transportation corridors around the state.

The highway administration recently said it had approved six new electric vehicle corridors around Colorado that are eligible for NEVI funding, bringing the total in the state to 13. The newly approved corridors are Interstate 270, U.S. Route 34, U.S. Route 36, U.S. Route 287, U.S. Route 385 and U.S Route 550.

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

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