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Alexandria hits grant funding jackpot for new electric bus fleet

A pair of grants totaling $38 million should help boost Alexandria’s electric bus fleet ambitions.

The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) have been awarded $24 million from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in grants to expand its electric bus fleet and continue high-frequency bus service.

“The grant will be used to purchase 13 battery-electric buses and to install charging infrastructure at the City’s bus maintenance and storage facility,” the city said in a release. “The grant will also provide funding to upgrade the DASH facility with additional electrical capacity and to cover the cost of additional training and workforce development programs related to fleet electrification.”

DASH also received a $14 million grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s I-395 Commuter Choice Program.

“The funds will be used to maintain high frequency service levels on DASH Lines 35 and 36A/B through Fiscal Year 2025,” the release said. “DASH was also awarded funding to purchase two 60-foot articulated electric buses to increase capacity on Line 35, the busiest route in the entire DASH system.”

Converting Alexandria’s DASH bus system to an electric fleet is a long and often costly process. Earlier this year,  DASH General Manager Josh Baker said the city is still buying diesel buses because the funding wasn’t in place to buy electric buses.

“I think we can get to a place where electrification is part of good repair, but at the moment, that cost differential is not funded,” Baker said at the Transportation Commission.

Even $38 million burns pretty quickly with the considerable cost of electric buses. DASH officials said each electric bus costs $1.2 million while diesel buses cost $600,000, not to mention some of the infrastructure cost — though early indications are that electric buses may be less expensive to operate and maintain than diesel buses.

Still, Baker said the grant funding will help boost Alexandria along the path to getting more electric buses on the streets. The city’s goal is to have the entire DASH fixed-route fleet all-electric by 2037, which will require all new bus purchases starting in 2027 to have zero tailpipe emissions.

“The City is committed to reducing its environmental impact and improving air quality,” Baker said in the release. “The purchase of zero-emission buses is a major step forward in achieving these goals. The new buses will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for all residents of Alexandria.”

Rep. Don Beyer put out a statement applauding the federal investment.

“The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is making our air cleaner, our region more connected, and our economy stronger,” Beyer said in a release. “These smart investments will help reduce emissions and create new jobs in Northern Virginia, throughout the region, and across the country. When we put our constituents and communities first, we can grow the middle class and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. This is the way.”

Photo via DASHbus/Facebook

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