CARTA will apply for $10 million in federal funds to replace 27 high-mileage buses that have been on the road for nearly two decades.
The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority staff on Wednesday received CARTA board approval to seek the funds. The deadline for consideration is Aug. 4.
"It's good money if we can get it," said board member Mike Seekings, who is Finance Committee chairman.
Interim Executive Director Jeff Burns requested approval for the application. "These vehicles have met their economic useful life," Burns said.
Some $2.5 million in local matching funds will be needed, he said.
Under federal guidelines, a bus qualifies for replacement after 12 years of operation. The 1996 vehicles that need to be replaced have an average of 750,000 miles on them.
CARTA ridership for June was 417,000, an increase of 8 percent over last year. Revenue for the month was $438,600, up 14 percent over 2013.
The agency's five-year strategic plan says that just about all of its bus fleet needs replacing at a cost of nearly $40 million. Until that happens, a staff of 12 CARTA mechanics keeps about 100 vehicles rolling.
The Charleston area population increased 20 percent in the latest census, which could help with federal funding for new buses, officials said.
CARTA is moving quickly on plans for a new bus and train hub where the Amtrak station is located on Gaynor Avenue in North Charleston.
The two-story, $14 million, 33,000-square-foot building will serve passenger trains, local and regional buses, taxis and limousines. In addition, CARTA plans to lease office, retail and restaurant space in the facility where the new agency headquarters will be located.
CARTA will build the new passenger center within 30 months, a timetable that is a condition for receiving $11.6 million in federal funding. The Federal Transit Administration is providing the lion's share of funding for the new transportation hub.
Board Chairman Elliott Summey said Wednesday that the original site for the bus and train station off west Montague Avenue has been listed for $7 million.
Some $4 million was spent on the original location. That venue was scrapped when it was learned that an extra $20 million would be needed to make it work for a passenger train station, officials said.
The situation developed when CSX rail would not approve the passenger platform needed for an Amtrak station at the west Montague location, officials said.
CSX said that it needed to have its main line always open for its adjoining Bennett Yard, which would have required construction of a side track on west Montague. Officials learned, though, that a side track was prohibitively expensive because of work it would require on the Interstate 526 bridge over Dorchester Road.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711.
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