MARTA receives substantial federal transit grant
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood awarded MARTA a $10.8 million grant under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Grant Program during a ceremony Monday at the Five Points MARTA Station.
MARTA will use the funds, which are part of an allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to install solar panels at the Laredo Bus Maintenance Facility in Decatur, a project expected to generate 32 jobs, cost savings, and environmental benefits.
“This is truly a win-win for MARTA and for the environment,” LaHood said. “It shows that MARTA is helping to lead the way to make public transportation cleaner, greener, and more energy-efficient for everyone who lives and works in greater Atlanta.”
The Laredo project will be the largest of its kind in Georgia and the second-largest among all U.S. transit systems. Workers will install shade structures with integrated, grid-tied photovoltaic solar cells that will cover 220 bus parking stalls and include translucent panels to filter sunlight.
The shade structures are expected to reduce summertime temperatures by as much as 50 degrees, reducing the need for busses to idle with air conditioning running.
The annual 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity is expected to offset about .6 percent of MARTA’s annual power consumption. The Laredo project is estimated to generate a net income of $159,280 per year for a total of $7,167,000 over its 45-year lifespan, which will be used to offset the cost of the electricity at Laredo.
This electricity will be sold back to the power grid and Georgia Power will provide a credit to MARTA for the electricity.
“The MARTA board of directors is incredibly grateful to the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation for giving us the opportunity to move forward with this unique project, which will help us better achieve our goals of becoming more energy-efficient and cost-effective as an agency,” MARTA board Chairman Michael Walls said. “This is truly a grant that is going to keep on giving.”
MARTA approved a Sustainability Policy for in 2008 that includes a plan to secure funding through the federal Energy Independence Security Act to reduce its carbon footprint.
As part of this initiative, MARTA signed onto the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Sustainability Program, a nationwide pilot program that calls on all signees to take steps to become more environmentally friendly.
“To say that we are ecstatic is an understatement,” MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott said. ”Thank you so much to Secretary LaHood for awarding MARTA with this substantial grant, which will help us significantly improve the energy efficiency of our operations, cut our fuel consumption and emissions, enhance our work environment, and create additional jobs for our region.”
Scott also thanked LaHood for the $62.8 million in ARRA funds that have gone to MARTA, particularly the additional $25 million in ARRA funds “flexed” by the Atlanta Regional Commission to MARTA to help the agency close a multi-million gap in its 2010 budget.
“We were literally almost knocked to our knees,” Scott said. “Let the president know we are still standing with pride.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) assured LaHood that his department and President Obama will have continued congressional support.
“You will have our help, you will have our support to get the resources necessary to keep America moving,” Lewis said.
Other officials on hand Monday included Gov. Sonny Perdue, who introduced LaHood; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves; DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis; State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna); and Georgia DOT Commissioner Vance Smith.
(All photos by Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News.)