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Federal grant could boost electrification of DASH fleet

DASH buses (photo via DASHbus/Facebook)

Alexandria is hoping a federal grant could help push Alexandria’s DASH bus network a little closer to full electrification.

A memo from Deputy Director of Transportation Hillary Orr to the Transportation Commission said the city is hoping federal funding can help cover a sizable budget gap looming for electric bus replacement plans.

The DASH bus network has been crawling toward electrification for years despite challenges, from difficulties with hilly terrain to a lack of charging stations. The city’s goal is a fully electric fleet by 2037.

Currently, DASH has 14 electric buses in circulation and 87 “clean diesel” and hybrid buses. The bus network’s plans include replacing ten additional buses and five trolleys that have reached the end of their useful life — but replacing these buses and trolleys with electric alternatives is costly.

“To replace these assets with battery electric buses and trolleys will cost an estimated $19.3 million,” Orr wrote in the memo. “The City currently has budgeted $4,798,900 for the replacement of these buses, leaving a gap of $14.5 million.”

Beyond just the electric bus costs, Orr wrote there is an additional smaller budget gap for new clean diesel buses.

“Additionally, the City was previously awarded $4.4 million in Smart Scale funds for six clean diesel buses,” Orr wrote. “To upgrade these buses to battery electric would cost an additional $3.1 million.”

Orr wrote that DASH and City staff are submitting multiple applications to the Federal Transit Administration’s  (FTA) Low or No Emission Grant Program:

The following projects could be submitted within these applications.

  • Trolley Replacement (up to $6.8 million): Retire and replace five (5) trolleys with electric trolleys.
  • Bus Replacement (up to $12.5 million): Retire and replace ten (10) buses with electric buses.
  • Smart Scale Expansion Buses (up to $7.5 million): Upgrade six (6) Smart Scale clean diesel buses to electric buses.
  • Electric upgrades at DASH Facility (up to $9 million): Build new electrical service, including on-site equipment and infrastructure to support charging need of fleet wide conversion to battery electric buses.
  • Workforce Development (up to $1.6 million): Required 5% of federal request.

In total, Orr wrote that the city is seeking $38 million in grant funding.

“While it is unlikely the full grant request will be awarded, staff determined the best path forward is to propose all needs in a scalable manner by which the FTA can assess and award funds as available,” Orr wrote.

The grants are headed to the Transportation Commission for review at a meeting on Wednesday, March 15.

Photo via DASHbus/Facebook

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