Federal money to buy 13 buses

Posted June 25, 2009, at 7:32 p.m.

Four bus systems in Maine, including BAT in the Bangor area, will share more than $5 million in federal stimulus funding released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.

Mike Michaud, Maine’s 2nd District U.S. representative and a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, made the announcement Thursday.

“I am pleased that the Federal Transit Administration has released this funding for Maine,” Michaud said in a statement. “Ridership has continued to rise in these areas. New buses will save on energy costs, be good for the environment and reduce congestion on our roads.”

The $5,156,622 in funding, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will be used to purchase 13 new 35-foot buses. In addition to the BAT system, Portland’s Metro System, the Lewiston Auburn Transit Committee and South Portland’s Transportation and Waterfront Department will benefit. A specific breakdown of how many new buses each system will get was not announced.

Earlier this year, representatives from those same four bus systems pleaded to the state’s congressional delegation for funding to replace vehicles in their respective fleets. BAT superintendent Joe McNeil said in February that six of his 18 buses are well past the point where they need to be replaced.

Buses are aging rapidly at a time when the need for bus services is greater than ever. BAT ridership eclipsed 800,000 in 2008 for the first time in the system’s three-decade history and is expected to keep growing.

BAT already serves the communities of Bangor, Brewer, Hampden, Veazie, Orono and Old Town. The bus system also announced a deal earlier this year with the University of Maine and the town of Orono to add a new route to serve those communities.

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