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Stage set for all-electric buses to buzz across the state; "clean economy"


Virginia will invest $14 million, or 15 percent of its Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust funds, to pay for the deployment of all-electric transit buses across Virginia.

The $2.9 billion trust, included in the VW settlement, provides funding for states to upgrade, or re-power older vehicles and equipment, to rapidly reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen contributing to ground level ozone, smog and climate change.

Governor Ralph Northam made the announcement during remarks at the Governor’s Transportation Conference and Innovation Summit, held recently in Norfolk.

“Electric transportation is a critical part of our climate strategy to reduce pollution and advance the clean economy,” said Northam. “This funding will support the (state's) move to 21st century transit and help make Virginia an even better place to live, work, play, start a business and raise a family.”

Not only does this program help ensure transit projects can provide the safe and reliable services that citizens deserve, but it also makes public transit in Virginia environmentally sustainable and cost-effective for years to come, added Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.

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A new Clean Transportation Voucher Program is set to replace heavy and medium-duty polluting vehicles, with cleaner vehicles.

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The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the designated lead agency acting on the state’s behalf to implement Virginia’s $93.6 million allocation from a settlement, will provide funding, through a new, Clean Transportation Voucher Program, to replace heavy and medium-duty polluting vehicles, with cleaner vehicles.

The project will be submitted through the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s (DRPT) annual public transportation capital grant cycle, known as MERIT (Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit), which begins December 1, 2018, and runs through February 1, 2019.

Earlier this year, the electric vehicle charging station company, EVgo, was awarded a contract to develop a statewide public electric vehicle charging network. Its first stop was at a Virginia Beach state park. Together, these two funding announcements account for 30 percent of Virginia’s total allocation from the settlement, a significant investment in the transition toward electric transportation and cleaner air.

This second round of funding will serve as an important proof of concept and raise awareness of the availability of electric buses to serve transit agency needs. The program's goal is to provide enough funding to cover the incremental cost of transitioning from new diesel buses to new all-electric buses.

The Department of General Services (DGS) will soon be adding electric buses to the statewide contract for transit buses.

This type of joint procurement decreases administrative and contract costs for local governments and transit agencies, said Valentine. In fact, some transit agencies have already started moving toward electric buses, such as Hampton Roads Transit.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, far left, was in Norfolk for the Governor’s Transportation Conference and Innovation Summit, held this week in Norfolk. (Courtesy photo,)

While electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions, their carbon footprint is dependent on the electricity grid that charges them. On average, electric vehicles produce 70 percent fewer carbon emissions than their gasoline-powered counterparts, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A study earlier this year by the Union of Concerned Scientists rated Virginia as one of the best places for electric buses, based on carbon pollution. Diesel buses emit 200 to 300 percent more carbon pollution than electric buses in Virginia, said Valentine.

Electric buses provide significant public benefit compared to their diesel counterparts. Reduced air pollution from this investment will lead to better health outcomes for Virginia and reduced carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change, said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified diesel exhaust from sources, such as transit buses, as a major factor in the urban air pollution that disproportionately affects low-income and disadvantaged communities, said Valentine.

Electric buses have zero-tailpipe emissions and provide clean air benefits to communities that have historically borne a greater burden of fossil fuel pollution, said Valentine.

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DRPT will submit a recommended list of projects for the CTB to prioritize under the new MERIT metrics, including these projects eligible for Volkswagen settlement funding. The CTB will make final project funding allocations at its June meeting, next year.

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MERIT, DRPT’s project-based prioritization process for statewide transit capital funding, was recently approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). This prioritization is part of a series of public transit reforms mandated by the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.

"MERIT will ensure that core state-of-good-repair projects, such as replacing or rehabilitating bus fleets based upon their age and mileage, are made the highest priority for state funds and are eligible to have 68 percent of project costs covered by the Commonwealth," said Valentine.

The Volkswagen settlement funds, in turn, ensure that local transit agencies can replace their fleets with modern, high-efficiency vehicles, while maintaining the local minimum, four percent required match.

Following a comprehensive review and analysis of all funding requests, DRPT will submit a recommended list of projects for the CTB to prioritize under the new MERIT metrics, including these projects eligible for Volkswagen settlement funding. The CTB will make final project funding allocations at its June meeting, next year.

#VolkswagenEnvironmentalMitigationTrust #CommonwealthofVirginia #VirginiaDepartmentofEnvironmentalQuality #CleanTransportationVoucherProgram #EVgo

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