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As part of a big, new round of federal transportation grants announced on Monday, the Utah Transit Authority will receive $1.56 million to continue partially converting its bus fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of diesel.

"UTA has already taken steps to start converting its fleet. We've already ordered 10 CNG buses scheduled to be delivered next summer, with plans to order as many as 100 more in following years," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.

He notes that CNG costs much less per gallon than diesel, its price is more stable, supplies are produced locally and are plentiful, and it is more environmentally friendly. Also, he said the lower-cost fuel could help keep UTA fares lower.

UTA is in the process of designing and building a new bus maintenance facility at 750 W. 300 South in Salt Lake City that would include refueling and repair facilities for CNG buses. Its first phase is projected to cost $40 million to $50 million. It would replace a smaller existing garage next door at 616 W. 200 South, which the UTA is considering making part of a new "transit-oriented development" not far from The Gateway.

Carpenter said new CNG buses cost about $455,000 each, while new "clean diesel" buses cost about $420,000 and hybrid electric buses cost about $620,000.

The money comes from a $787 million federal package of grants to projects in 48 states to replace aging public transit infrastructure. The Federal Transit Administration received applications totaling $4 billion in requests.

Grants awarded ranged from a high of $76 million to upgrade New Jersey Transit's bus fleet, to a low of $8,000 to help Bismarck, N.D., replace some bus radios.

The grants included $624,000 to help St. George in Utah replace some of its older buses.

"Since Day One, this administration has been focused on addressing the maintenance backlog of our nation's transit systems, and this is another down payment on that effort," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.

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