Steamboat receives grant to improve bus fleet

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— Steamboat Springs was awarded more than $1.7 million in federal grant funds that will allow the city to add to and rehabilitate its bus fleet.

Steamboat Government Programs Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said the city was awarded $1,765,910 in grant funds from the Federal Transportation Administration’s State of Good Repair Program. She said the funds, with a $441,478 match from the city for a total of $2,207,388, would pay for two new hybrid buses and the costs to rehabilitate six existing ones.

Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the grant funding would allow the city to upgrade one-third of its 24-bus fleet for the free Steamboat Springs Transit program. He said it would bring the number of hybrid buses to five.

Shelton said because of a lack of development activity, use and excise taxes are providing fewer dollars for Steamboat’s Capital Projects Fund. Because of that decrease in funds, the city hasn’t been able to meet its fleet replacement schedule of two new buses per year. He said the city didn’t replace a bus this year and replaced one last year.

“It’s a huge catch-up provision for us,” Shelton said.

Shelton said the rehabilitation would include engine, transmission, interior and body overhauls of 14- and 15-year-old buses. The rehabilitation will cost $175,000 each and significantly extend the life of each bus.

“That gives us another seven years out of each of those vehicles instead of a nearly $600,000 cost for a new bus,” DelliQuadri said. “It’s really cost effective.”

The hybrid buses cost $578,694 each this year, DelliQuadri said. She said the cost could increase next year. She added that whether the city would be able to buy them this year depends on when it receives a contract that has been approved by the Transportation Administration.

DelliQuadri said the city would use a combination of funds allocated in the 2011 and 2012 Capital Improvement Program budget or already awarded Colorado Department of Transportation FASTER dollars to pay for the grant match.

FASTER, which was adopted by the state Legislature in 2009, implemented increases to vehicle registration fees to boost statewide transportation funding.

DelliQuadri said it would take 18 to 24 months to get the buses once they’re ordered because they will be built to the city’s specifications. But DelliQuadri said getting the funds to buy them was big news for the city.

“We didn’t anticipate getting these dollars,” she said. “We didn’t think we’d get them. They’re incredibly competitive. We applied for them last year and didn’t get them.”

Shelton said the city’s bus ridership reached 1.05 million passengers in 2010 and is anticipated to increase 6 percent this year based on current projections.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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