Dan Ring/ The Republican
U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond H. LaHood on Monday announced that the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in Springfield will receive $6.2 million federal grant for purchasing state-of-the-art electric hybrid buses.
Mary L. MacInnes, the authority’s administrator, said the money will pay for 10 buses. The buses will come with diesel-fueled engines with electric motors. There is no date yet for when the buses will be delivered.
“We were thrilled when our application was accepted,” MacInnes said on Monday. “I wasn’t sure we would get an award through this particular program.”
The $6.2 million for the Pioneer Valley authority is among $776 million in grants awarded by the Federal Transit Administration for 152 projects to transit providers in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The agency reviewed nearly 400 project applications representing $4.2 billion in funding requests from transit providers across the country.
The grants are for buses, bus facilities and equipment.
The grant for the Pioneer Valley authority comes after the agency received a special $745,689 federal grant in July to establish an interactive passenger information system. The system will give the elderly and disabled passengers around the clock access to real-time traveler, trip-planning, scheduling and customer-service information.
Just last month, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority received 29 new buses as part of a major upgrade financed by federal stimulus dollars. Another couple of additional buses are also scheduled for arrival.
Also previously, the authority was equipped with 20 new vans purchased by federal stimulus dollars. Those vans arrived in December and January and are used for transportation of the elderly and disabled.
Those new buses and vans were purchased with some of $16.2 million the authority received last year from the federal stimulus law signed by President Barack H. Obama.
The new buses and vans are replacing old vehicles.
U.S. Reps. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry all issued statements in support of the grants.
“These hybrid buses will meet our regional public transportation needs, lower emissions, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” said Neal, who brought LaHood to Springfield in June for the unveiling of the State Street corridor project.
The Federal Transit Authority estimates that more than 40 percent of the nation’s buses are currently in poor to marginal condition. The department released a report in June - The National State of Good Repair Assessment Study - which estimated that the cost of bringing the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into a state of good repair is close to $78 billion.
The repair money was made available in response to the needs cited in this study and reflects the department’s commitment to strengthening and modernizing transportation across the nation, LaHood said.
Even with the new buses and vans purchased with last year’s stimulus and the 10 new electric hybrid buses, the authority still needs 26 additional buses and 30 additional vans to bring the fleet to a level where the authority wants it to be, MacInnes said.
The largest of the 15 regional transit authorities in the state, the agency has a fleet of 174 buses and 144 vans, according to its website. In a recent year, about 12 million passengers boarded agency vehicles, according to December report by the state Department of Transportation.
The authority provides fixed-route bus service and paratransit service to 24 communities including Amherst, Chicopee, Holyoke, Northampton, Palmer, Springfield and Westfield.
Subsidized by state and federal money and local assessments, the authority offers service to the elderly, the disabled, students and others who may not have automobiles.