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The Federal Transit Administration this week awarded a $5.4 million grant to the Utah Transit Authority to buy its first-ever all-electric buses.

UTA said on Thursday that it plans to buy five buses with the money. Three will be put into service on Route 2, which runs through downtown Salt Lake City on 200 South to the University of Utah.

The other two will run on a new University of Utah shuttle route through the center of campus. The University of Utah partnered with UTA in the grant application.

"Providing environmentally friendly public transportation is one of UTA's long-term goals," said Matt Sibul, UTA chief planning officer. "We are happy to put these electric buses into service right through the center of Salt Lake City, where the air pollution sometimes gets trapped and so many people work, live and play."

Alma Allred, executive director of commuter services at the university, said, "It is a direct health benefit to provide electric bus service through the heart of the campus without pumping emissions into the air."

While the new electric buses will be the first zero-emissions vehicles purchased by UTA, it has a fleet of low-emission buses that include 32 hybrid electric and 47 compressed natural gas buses.

UTA said in a press release that each electric bus will save about 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually, and the emissions they would generate.

UTA said delivery of the buses, which must now be ordered and built, could come as early as 2018.

The grant was part of $22.8 million awarded by FTA this week to help no-emission and low-emission transit projects nationwide.

"This administration is committed to investing in an economy powered by clean transportation," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The Department of Transportation is proud to build on the successful Low-No program to put more American-made, energy-efficient buses into service across America."