After 12 years of groundwork, Cache Valley Transit District has been awarded $18 million in federal grant money for a new vehicle maintenance and storage facility.
In a statement released Wednesday, Holly Broome-Hyer, CVTD Board chair, said the project will save taxpayer dollars by reducing vehicle maintenance costs due to weather conditions while also helping the district embrace new technology and prepare for community growth.
“We understand our responsibility to our community and its residents to use their tax dollars wisely,” Broome-Hyer said in the statement. “This facility will allow us to bring federal tax dollars back into our community to serve our residents. Instead of seeing our past tax investments as a payment, we saw them as an investment in the future of transportation in Cache Valley.”
According to the Federal Transit Administration, $464 million in infrastructure grants to improve bus systems were provided to 96 projects spanning 49 states and territories. In an interview with The Herald Journal, CVTD General Manager and CEO Todd Beutler said the grant to CVTD was the single largest distributed by the FTA this year. Beutler said the application process was highly competitive, requiring environmental analysis, professional prep work, the purchase of over 17 acres of land, and demonstrating the need for the project in the future.
“This money comes with a ton of requirements,” Beutler said. “This has all been part of a strategic plan.”
Currently, transit vehicles are housed at a Logan facility built in 1998 designed to provide 20 years of service. Beutler said the facility provides a canopy for vehicles but is not fully enclosed and has been outgrown.
Housing vehicles outside in extreme climate conditions presents challenges, according to Beutler.
“In the winter we have to wash the buses every day. And then when they sit outside, a lot of times air valves will freeze open,” Beutler said “It makes it difficult to get them up and going in the morning on those extreme cold days and get them out for service.”
Logan city and other agencies have built indoor storage for their vehicles to provide protection from the elements. By following these examples, CVTD expects indoor storage to be beneficial for the transit system, riders and taxpayers.
“This will make the system more reliable and we believe, based on research, increase the life of the vehicles and reduce maintenance costs,” Beutler said.
The new facility will be located at approximately 3100 North and 350 West in North Logan. The 17 and a quarter acre parcel was purchased in 2009. In addition to housing vehicles at the site, there are plans to build a closed course training area for drivers.
“Currently, we’re doing that in our storage area,” Beutler said. “This will allow us to separate that function, which will be safer, and we’re excited about that.”
The project, according to Beutler, received bipartisan local support. President Donald Trump tweeted about the funds sent to CVTD — in addition to others who received similar grants — calling it a “huge and badly needed investment in the Cache Valley Region!”
“We’re grateful the administration supported the project, regardless whether Republican or Democrat,” Beutler said. “It’s kind of cool that the president of the United States mentioned Cache Valley — I think it’s kind of neat.”
Beutler said the project wouldn’t have moved forward without having a “great community” standing behind it. According to Beutler, though ridership took a dramatic hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a core group of Cache Valley residents rely on public transit as their sole means of transportation.
“It is the fact that we have people that use the system that shows a need,” Beutler said. “Whether you ride the bus or don’t ride the bus, I think everyone hopefully can take part in this and feel like, ‘Hey, this is definitely something that benefits the valley.’”
Though the grant signifies the crossing of a major hurdle, the work isn’t over. Beutler said CVTD strives to be a trusted entity in the community.
“We want to build a very good project,” Beutler said. “We want to exceed the expectations of FTA but also that of the community.”