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RACINE — The City of Racine is expecting to be awarded $6,190,906 for at least six new electric buses from the Volkswagen Transit Capital Assistance Grant Program, the second-greatest allotment statewide from the program.

Funding became available from the state because the car manufacturer, Volkswagen, admitted to violating the Federal Clean Air Act in a lawsuit brought against the company after it was discovered the vehicle emissions were intentionally misreported.

Volkswagen admitted to violating the federal Clean Air Act from 2009-16 by selling nearly 590,000 2-liter and 3-liter diesel engine vehicles that utilized software designed to cheat on federal emissions tests by reporting inaccurate data on nitrogen-oxide emissions. 

The company was ordered to pay a settlement of $2.9 billion to states. Wisconsin received $67.1 million of that settlement, and made $32 million of that available via grants to municipalities to replace aging buses. In September, the city applied for the grant with a request for new electric buses, which also includes the costs of infrastructure upgrades and charging stations.

“This is exciting news for several reasons,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason stated. “It’s good for the city budget, allowing us to have a dedicated funding source to replace some of our aging buses.

“This also helps us keep our commitment to reducing the city’s carbon footprint, and it allows us to be innovative as a smart city.”

Replacing polluters

Mike Maierle, the Racine Parking and Transit System manager, said it will be at least a year before the new buses are operating, because any bus acquisition involves substantial procurement and ordering time.

When the electric buses do arrive, he said, the city will replace the six oldest, least-reliable and biggest exhaust emitters in the fleet. 

“These buses went into service in 2004 and average 500,000 miles,” Maierle said. “The new buses will be assigned where they can do the most good, and other buses will drop into the roles played by the replaced buses.”

The estimated cost per bus is $$878,000 and a charger with installation is $112,500, Maierle said. The actual costs won’t be known until the procurement process occurs.

“Costs in the industry have been declining annually as technology improves and becomes more widely adopted,” he added.

Overnight chargers are planned to be installed in the existing bus garage, Maierle said. One high-speed charger may be installed at the far end of a long route.

A bus can run all day on a typical bus route in Racine, Maierle said: “Longer routes would benefit from a charger to top off the batteries.”

Eight other Wisconsin cities, and Milwaukee County, received grants. The City of Appleton is to receive the greatest amount, $7,688,850, to replace 15 buses.

More information can be found at the Wisconsin Department of Administration website:

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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