Graham Kilmer

State Gives Milwaukee Federal Money for Electric Buses

State awards grant for the purchase of up to 16 battery electric buses.

By - Mar 16th, 2023 05:32 pm
MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

Milwaukee County is getting $8.4 million from the state to support the purchase of 16 battery electric buses (BEBs).

In 2022, the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) applied for $24 million in funding to purchase up to 20 BEBs through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant program. The U.S. Department of Transportation program provides states funding to finance projects that can reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The CMAQ program requires a 20% local match. But at approximately $1.5 million a bus, the grant would cover only 35% of the $24 million estimated cost to purchase 16 BEBs.

“The County is tremendously grateful for the award,” a spokesperson for MCTS said. “Milwaukee County would have to review the terms and conditions of the CMAQ award before any determinations are to be made for the number of buses and local match requirements.”

The transit system’s first BEBs were purchased for the new East-West Bus Rapid Transit Line called “Connect,” which will be operated with 11 BEBs. The new route will begin service on June 4, but it will be initially short four of the 11 BEBs. Along with those 11 BEBs, the county purchased an additional four electric buses that will be operated on regular fixed transit routes as a pilot program for further electrification of the fleet.

The buses are Nova LFSe+, manufactured by Nova Bus, a Canadian company owned by Volvo Group. They can run 247 miles on a single charge. MCTS estimates that the first 11 BEBs will reduce the transit system’s use of diesel fuel by approximately 67,000 gallons annually.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Gov. Tony Evers announced awards for CMAQ funding Thursday, which included funding for trails, bike lanes and traffic signal upgrades in communities across the state.

“By working closely with our federal and local partners on projects like this, we can keep our infrastructure and our state moving forward, and I look forward to doing even more in our state budget,” Evers said in a statement.

In recent years, the transit system has stepped up efforts to purchase new buses as hundreds of buses in the fleet were arriving at the end of their useful life. In 2021, transit officials reported that more than 200 buses would need to be replaced by 2024, representing more than 50% of the fleet at the time. In 2018, the system had approximately 400 buses and by 2019 it had 369 buses, according to its annual reports. The system now has 321 buses and 17 of those are used for training.

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