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Millions in federal transit dollars headed for Vail, Summit County, other mountain towns

August 19, 2022, 11:02 am

Big federal money is rolling into mountain towns for transit projects from Summit County to Vail and beyond, according to a pair of press releases from the Colorado Department of Transportation and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse:

Colorado is receiving $51 million in federal funds for low- and zero-emission transit projects across the state, including a $34.8 million award to help the Summit County area transition to a 100% zero-emissions fleet.

The grants from the Federal Transit Administration, which will be partly administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation, represent the largest-ever allocation of federal funding for low- and zero-emissions transit to the state and will allow six transit agencies to enhance the reliability and environmental sustainability of their services to the traveling public.

“We are pleased to see the federal government investing in helping Colorado’s smaller and rural transit authorities electrify their fleets,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “These agencies play a critical role in providing sustainable, statewide mobility options for Coloradans, and their success competing for these grants demonstrates their national importance as well as providing some of the best rural transit in the country.” 

“Colorado is home to some of the best rural and mountain transit services in the country, and CDOT is proud to serve as their partner in competing for federal funds to support fleet electrification and improved service for Coloradans,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. 

Chris Lubbers, transit director for Summit Stage, the transit agency serving the Summit County region, said the infusion of nearly $35 million in funds would help construct a new charging and operations facility, key for the transit agency’s planned conversion away from diesel fuel and replacement of aging vehicles.

“This new facility and its electric charging stations will both accommodate the growth of fleet and personnel and will allow Summit Stage to meet the region’s transportation goals for improving air quality, conserving energy and meeting the needs of under-served communities,” Lubbers said.

Public transit plays a critical role in providing safe, affordable and sustainable mobility options year-round to Coloradans and those who enjoy the state. Colorado has 55 transit agencies across the state that provide more than 134 million passenger trips per year. For the month of August, more than 30 public transit agencies across the state are offering free services as part of the Zero Fair for Better Air campaign, which will help improve air quality and save people money. Additionally, all Bustang, Outrider and Pegasus services are half price through Sept. 5.

In Colorado, the awards are for a total of 27 vehicles, including 14 running on compressed natural gas, five diesel, three diesel/electric hybrid, three gasoline and two battery electric. The federal funds will also help construct two new facilities to support the new clean energy fleets for years to come.

The awards include:

  • $34.8 million to Summit County for the construction of a new transit charging, operations and storage facility to support a future 100% zero emission bus fleet
  • $5.7 million to the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) for the purchase of 10 compressed natural gas (CNG) and two diesel 40-foot transit buses
  • $3.9 million to Mesa County for the construction of a new bus maintenance facility and purchase of four CNG cutaway transit buses
  • $2.6 million to the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transit (SMART) for the purchase of two 40-foot transit buses and three transit vans
  • $2.4 million to the City of Steamboat Springs for the purchase of three 35-foot hybrid-electric transit buses and the overhaul of a regional commuter coach
  • $1.8 million to the Town of Vail for the purchase of two battery electric buses and associated charging infrastructure and workforce training

The CDOT Division of Transit and Rail will administer the awards for Summit County, RFTA, SMART, City of Steamboat Springs and Town of Vail as pass-through grant agreements, while the grant to Mesa County, as a direct recipient of the FTA, will be managed directly by the federal agency.

Here’s the press release from Neguse:

Today, Congressman Joe Neguse announced $34,765,737 in funding for the Summit Stage, a rural transit agency in Summit, Park, and Lake counties. Funds have been allocated by the State of Colorado Department of Transportation through the Low or No Emission (Low-No) Grant Program and the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program, which received funding as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 22) budget. This is an important investment in clean energy transportation – the funding will be used to construct a new charging and operations bus facility, expand fleet storage, and build electric vehicle charging, which will expand green infrastructure across Colorado’s mountain communities.  

In April of last year, as the federal government was crafting the FY22 budget, Representative Neguse led a letter to Appropriators in Congress iterating this request, read the letter here.

“Across the 2nd district, and throughout Colorado’s mountain communities, many of our cities and counties are setting ambitious local renewable energy goals. The Low or No Emission grant program, and others like it, will ensure our communities are equipped to meet their goals while making strides to combat the most existential threat of our time: climate change,” said Congressman Neguse. “This funding will invest in the local economies and connectivity of Summit, Park, and Lake counties, bettering the lives of the families who are lucky to call these mountain communities home.”

Since its inception, the Low-No program has provided critical funding for state, local, and tribal governments in their efforts to expand low-emission bus transit systems. The program serves to both promote mobility, modernize infrastructure, and address climate change. The Low-No emission grant program has brought millions of dollars to cities throughout Colorado’s Second Congressional District. In 2020, the City of Boulder and Town of Vail used program funds to replace diesel buses and in 2018, Eagle County, Breckenridge, and Estes Park all secured significant funding for their emission-reducing transportation programs

Representative Neguse has been a staunch advocate for this program and for the expansion of clean transportation, utilizing his role in Congress to secure a $50 million appropriations increase for the Low-No program in the FY2021 budget. Rep. Neguse also spearheaded other efforts to spur new infrastructure and green public transportation across Colorado, securing $2 million in funding in 2019 from the Department of Transportation for Breckenridge, CO to replace diesel-powered buses with battery-electric vehicles and charging stations, through a different grant program at the FTA, the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program.

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