A Canadian company will receive $4.6 million in locally allocated federal economic stimulus funds to build 11 replacement buses for the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority's aging mass transit fleet, a CARTA official said Friday.
At least 60 percent of the parts used to manufacture the buses are made in the United States, which meets rules governing the use of federal stimulus funds, said Howard Chapman, CARTA executive director.
"We're going to write a purchase order to them and tell them to get started," Chapman said.
The company, New Flyer, has its headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where it manufactures bus shells and parts for its St. Cloud and Crookston, Minn., operations.
St. Cloud is a finishing and full-production facility. Crookston is a final assembly plant for the Winnipeg and St. Cloud operations, according to the company web site.
CARTA is buying 35-foot-long, heavy-duty buses from New Flyer. The new buses will reduce exhaust pollution by 90 percent compared to the buses now on the street, and they have better fuel economy, Chapman said.
They have features that make them easier for passengers and the disabled to board.
CARTA operates 36 green-and-tan buses that are the backbone of its system. The buses in the CARTA fixed-route fleet are 13 years old and have from 400,000 to 600,000 stop-and-go miles on them. The new buses will be on the streets in September of next year.
Two companies bid for the bus contract. The prices were about the same, but New Flyer won out over Daimler Buses because its proposal was better tailored to CARTA specifications, Chapman said.
The funds were awarded under the American Recovery and Re-investment Act of 2009. CARTA received $4.75 million for new buses, $1 million for improvements to its 26-year-old bus maintenance facility on Leeds Avenue and $725,000 for 25 bus-stop shelters.
CARTA board members approved the purchase of the New Flyer buses at a meeting this week. At its February meeting, the board was divided on whether to use federal economic stimulus funds to upgrade bus service or build the Charleston Regional Intermodal Transportation Center.
The 30-acre transportation hub would be able to serve Amtrak, buses, area taxis and shuttle services to and from Charleston International Airport.
Supporters of the new buses argued that they would mean more reliable transportation for workers and thus benefit the economy.
Those in favor of using the funds for the transportation center said it could mean dozens of local construction jobs. By a 10-8 majority, the board agreed in February to apply to buy the buses rather than use the funds for the center.