Rep. Ben McAdams asking Congress to boost federal funding for low-emission bus fleets

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Park City's new Electric Xpress bus sits in front of the Capitol during Transit Day on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City, Feb. 2, 2018. According to Park City Transit the Electric Xpress is the first fare free electric express bus route in the nation.

The Utah Transit Authority’s bus fleet will welcome five new electric models this summer, purchased in large part through a $5.4 million federal grant, UTA and Salt Lake County officials announced Friday.

And Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said he is prioritizing air quality initiatives as the U.S. House prepares its transportation funding legislation, particularly by encouraging his colleagues to boost the grant program for low- and zero-emission transit utilized by UTA.

“I want the federal government to step up and be a good partner to the state of Utah and to our cities and counties on those efforts that they’re engaging in,” McAdams said. “The first step would be fully funding these grant programs.”

The Utah Department of Transportation is also a beneficiary of the grant program, McAdams said, receiving $2.2 million that went toward the purchase of electric buses in Park City.

“As more people have the option of getting out of their car and choosing public transit, that will reduce tailpipe emissions,” McAdams said. “And then if we can make our public transit even cleaner, it will reduce our pollution even more.”

Friday’s news conference was held at the UTA park-and-ride lot at 3900 South and Wasatch Boulevard. Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said that city governments are “in the trenches” planning for population growth in the state, and he said he appreciates the help of UTA officials and resources from the federal government to better execute those plans.

“We’re doing the best that we can to plan for a future that predicts our population doubling and still addressing the issues we have regarding air quality and being able to get around in this valley," Silvestrini said.

(Benjamin Wood | The Salt Lake Tribune) Congressman Ben McAdams, D-Utah, discusses his plans to request increased funding for a federal grant program that recently helped the Utah Transit Authority purchase five electric buses during a news conference on Friday, May 31, 2019. Behind McAdams is UTA chairman Carlton Christensen (left), Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini (center) and James Campbell (right), legislative policy adviser for Rocky Mountain Power.

Three of UTA’s five electric buses will be used for a pilot program in Salt Lake City aimed at filling transit service gaps in the evening, weekend and mid-day period, said Jen McGrath, interim director of the city’s Community and Neighborhoods Department.

Carlton Christensen, chairman of the UTA Board of Trustees, said UTA is proud to join with federal and local elected representatives, academics at Utah’s universities and private sector partners in working toward cleaner air and a healthier environment along the Wasatch Front.

In addition to the five electric buses, Christensen said UTA will be implementing five electric charging stations and one en route charging location.

“Air quality is a community outcome,” Christensen said. “It’s also a community responsibility, and it requires partnership.”