The Utah Transit Authority won $8.5 million in federal grants on Monday to help replace aging buses and to help start building a new maintenance facility.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the award as part of a $776 million nationwide package of grants by the Obama administration to upgrade aging bus systems.
"Currently, 40 percent of the nation's buses are in poor or marginal condition," LaHood said in a teleconference. "It will take nearly $78 billion to bring the nation's bus and rail transit systems into a state of good repair overall.... These bus grants are an important down payment."
UTA won a $4 million grant for bus replacement. That will go toward buying 11 buses to provide service to Little and Big Cottonwood canyons. Each canyon bus features special technology for operating on steep grades and in snowy conditions.
It won another $4.45 million grant to begin environmental study and design work on a facility to replace UTA's central garage at 616 W. 200 South in Salt Lake City.
That 40-year-old garage lacks adequate space to maintain UTA's current fleet, as well as future needs. A new $80 million facility is planned for the block behind 669 W. 200 South.
"These competitive grants support our agency's goals to keep UTA's bus fleet in the best working condition possible," UTA General Manager Mike Allegra said.
UTA Board Chairman Greg Hughes added, "This new facility gives us an opportunity to plan for our current and future bus needs." He said UTA will study servicing alternative fuel vehicles, such as those powered by natural gas, at the facility.
Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, said the grants awarded Monday require buying American-made vehicles and products, and will "create well-paying jobs here at home just when we need them."