by Max Brantley
Rock Region METRO was awarded $1,653,498 in Federal Transit Administration funds to put toward the purchase of seven compressed natural gas buses and an educational diagnostic center for agency mechanics. This is the first FTA competitive grant for bus and bus facilities METRO has received.
“This award will greatly assist us in bringing modern transit to central Arkansas,” said Jarod Varner, METRO executive director. “With careful financial planning from our board and staff and the help of these funds, we continue to make progress on our fleet replacement plan to transition all diesel-fueled METRO buses with compressed natural gas buses by the end of 2025 and maintaining bus size diversity.”
The grant provides a 85 percent funding match for two 40-foot CNG buses ($485,033 each, with grant monies funding $412,278 and METRO funding $72,755 per bus), two 35-foot CNG buses ($479,108 each, with grant monies funding $407,246 and METRO funding $71,868 per bus) and an educational diagnostic center that teaches mechanics how to identify CNG bus mechanical problems more efficiently ($18,063, with grant monies funding $14,450 and METRO funding $3,613 of the center’s cost). The agency has ordered seven CNG buses that are expected to arrive in Summer 2017. The new buses replace seven 12-year-old 40-foot Gillig buses.
Sixty-one projects were funded through the 2016 FTA bus and bus facilities grant program, with 284 applications received.
“Grant funding such as this made available through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) Act is critical to improving long-term planning and project finance for public transit infrastructure across our country. METRO continues to pursue a dedicated funding source for central Arkansas public transit service so we may have the matching fund reserves to compete for even more federal transportation funding,” said Varner.