The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced nearly $517,000 in clean diesel or new vehicle grants to four transportation organizations, three of which operate school buses.
The largest pot of money is $315,036 with a $15,550 matching grant from Clean Air for Kids in Lehigh Valley for Jennings Transportation Corp., which operates school bus routes for approximately 3,700 students in the Nazareth Area School District. The company also provides extracurricular trips, charter and private school transportation, after-school programs and day-care service. Meghan DiRocco, director of communications and special projects for Jennings, said the 65-vehicle fleet frequently travels throughout the surrounding counties of Berks, Northampton, Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia. The oldest buses in the fleet date back to 1994.
Jennings’ award will retrofit 50 school buses. Diesel particulate filters will be installed on 24 buses to reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions by up to 90 percent. The remaining 26 buses will receive diesel oxidation catalysts to reduce PM by 20 percent. DiRocco added that the installs likely won’t occur until next summer because school started Aug. 30 and all buses need to be available for daily routes as well as other activity trips.
Originally, the grant money was expected in May, which would have allowed Jennings to perform data logging and install the equipment over the summer, DiRocco explained.
Meanwhile, a total of $206,000 in project funds and matching grants are going to two other school bus contractors. Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU), which provides non-profit educational services to local schools, including transportation, received approximately $120,000 to purchase a 2011 hybrid-electric school bus. DEP awarded $59,987 and the remaining $59,394 came from BCIU for its “Lean, Green and Seen: BCIU eBus Goes to School” program. The new bus is expected to save nearly 996 gallons of diesel fuel each year while reducing particulate matter by 94 percent, nitrous oxides by 48 percent and carbon monoxide by 34 percent.
Transportation Director Chris Celmer said BCIU must open a public bid for the new hybrid-electric, pending board approval next month. The bid is expected to be released by October. He added plans for the new bus include showcasing it throughout the community to demonstrate the environmental benefits. BCIU transports 11,000 students daily for five local school districts using 250 school buses.
Kuhn Transportation LLC won $21,614 and matched $64,850 in funds to purchase a 2011 Thomas Built bus that is expected to increase fuel mileage to 10 mpg from the previous 6 mpg of the bus it is replacing. Standard emissions controls in the new Thomas are expected to reduce nitrous oxides by 90 percent, particulate matter by 97 percent, hydrocarbons by 98 percent and carbon monoxide by 94 percent. The company provides transportation for Jim Thorpe School District
The remaining grant money was awarded to transit provider Bucks County Transport to replace diesel buses with CNG.
All projects must be completed by Sept. 30, 2012.