The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is funding a number of clean transportation projects focused on public transit in environmental justice areas in the Chicago metropolitan area.
On Monday, Alec Messina, director of the Illinois EPA, announced awards for the first round of funding under the Driving a Cleaner Illinois Program. Approximately $19 million will go toward public transit projects benefiting the most vulnerable populations, including low-income residents, minorities and children.
The program was designed to improve air quality in the state, primarily by removing old diesel engines from service. The Illinois EPA opened the first round of funding for public transit projects in the Chicago metropolitan area and an electric school bus pilot project in Cook County in late August. This funding opportunity is part of the state’s allocation of $108 million received from the Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement.
“Illinois EPA developed the first-round of funding to achieve significant nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission reductions for our most vulnerable residents,” says Messina. “Environmental justice areas throughout the Chicago area will see real air quality improvements because of these projects.”
The projects approved for funding under the first round include the following three types of vehicle replacement projects and fuels:
• New cleaner-diesel passenger/commuter locomotives. Eight old diesel passenger/commuter trains will be replaced with new Tier 4, cleaner-diesel passenger/commuter trains. These new trains will travel through environmental justice areas as they transport passengers to and from Union Station.
Recipient: Metra – $14 million
• New electric and alternative fuel public transit buses. Nine old diesel public transit buses will be replaced with six new compressed natural gas (CNG) and three new all-electric public transit buses. The all-electric buses will transport passengers in Chicago and will travel through environmental justice areas. The CNG buses will primarily operate out of Markham in Southern Cook County, reaching job centers in Monee, Joliet, Lombard, Rosemont and Schaumburg.
Recipients: Pace Suburban Bus Service – $2.3 million; Chicago Transit Authority – $1.9 million
• New electric school buses. Three old diesel school buses will be replaced with three new all-electric school buses. One bus will serve the Chicago Public School District and travel through environmental justice areas as it transports children to school on the west side of Chicago. The other two will carry children to schools in Richton Park and Chicago Heights, both of which are located in environmental justice areas and have significant minority and low-income student populations.
Recipient: Cook-Illinois Corp. – $474,000; First Student Inc. – $280,000
“This funding will drive clean air benefits for the working families and children in the Chicago area,” says Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. “We’re excited to see these first projects implemented to provide a cleaner commute for these residents.”
The Illinois EPA anticipates achieving approximately 290 tons of NOx reductions per year from these projects.