ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford Mass Transit District was recently awarded millions of dollars in Rebuild Illinois funding.
The program invests in improvements for roads, bridges, railroads and more. RMTD has been looking at renovating its Mulberry Street facility for a while now. It is old, getting to be too small and is built for diesel buses.
This came as RMTD continues to be a viable and clean option, as they are transitioning to low emission buses.
“Those grants are going to help us expand this facility and kind of make it better for everyone,” said Orlando Toatley, marketing and communications for RMTD.
The district has been awarded $16.6 million from the Rebuild Illinois program on top of the $16 million that it has already received from the first part of the grant. Both will be used to expand the Mulberry Street facility.
“It’s 35 years old and when it was originally built for 50 diesel buses, but now we have close to 80 overall vehicles,” Toatley said.
Forty of those vehicles are the fixed route buses while the others are paratransit service vehicles that are used to help people with disabilities.
“And then on top of that, we’re transferring to our low emissions buses, our hybrid buses and our all-electric buses,” Toatley said. “So, we have to put in infrastructure for that, basically charging stations and things of that nature.”
RMTD currently has 15 hybrid buses running in its fleet. This is in an effort to help improve the environment and make its carbon footprint smaller.
“It’s kind of where the environment and vehicles are moving forward,” Toatley said. “We don’t want to be left behind. We want to continue to present Rockford with the best possible vehicles we can for public transit.”
Administrators believe that the switch will be best for the public. RMTD hopes to move to a lower emissions fleet of buses by 2036.
“It’s just like with a lot of electric vehicles we see now a days,” Toatley said. “I mean, you’re seeing charging stations pop up everywhere, so we wanted to make sure we got on the bus, no pun intended. Got on the bus and got things moving toward our goal for 2036.”
RMTD has ordered six fully-electric buses that will hopefully be in Rockford in a few months.