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Lake Dillon with the Gore Range in the background seen on Friday, July 10, 2020, near Dillon. (Hugh Carey, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Summit Stage, the transit lifeline linking ski areas, workers and mountain towns in three counties, will get nearly $35 million from the federal infrastructure law to build an electric bus operations center and edge toward Summit County climate change goals. 

It’s the largest federal grant Summit County has ever seen, and funds most of the shovel-ready project, freeing up that much capital for other county projects like affordable housing, said Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue.

Other rural Colorado bus agencies also got millions from the new round of federal grants announced Tuesday to buy electric buses, hybrids, cleaner compressed natural gas vehicles or replacement diesels that will pollute less and be more reliable, federal officials said. 

Summit County’s Summit Stage public transit will get a major boost from nearly $35 million in federal grants to build an electrified bus operations center, shown here in a proposed rendering. The grant, Summit’s largest ever, will pay for the great majority of the facility, which will also allow Summit Stage to expand its free service to three counties. (Provided by Summit County government)

Summit Stage, which is free and also operates in Park and Lake counties where workers commute to I-70 resorts, will build an electrified operations center with charging, fleet storage and maintenance. The new building will replace bus operations buildings dating to the 1970s, Summit officials said. 

The electrified bus center could cost up to $48 million, Pogue said, and Summit will have to make up the difference, but county money is freed up now that most of the proposal is covered. 

The national wave of $1.6 billion in cleaner bus grants comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed in November. Colorado is also using state and federal money to replace diesel school buses with an electrified fleet. 

The Summit Stage grant will help the county work toward its goal of reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, and 91% by 2050. 

“It gets to a lot of our goals from a climate change perspective, from an equity perspective, and really just making sure that we can meet the needs of our community,” said Pogue, who added that Summit Stage will be able to expand services because of the grant. The new operations and maintenance center will be separate from a completed passenger center, which is also new. Summit currently has two electric buses. 

“We have to have vehicles and we also have to have staff, and like every other mountain community, we certainly are struggling to find staff right now,” Pogue said. “And so providing an environment in which they can do their jobs is certainly part of the equation.”

Other Colorado federal bus grants announced Tuesday include: 

  • $5.7 million to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to replace aging diesel with 10 new CNG and two cleaner diesel buses. 
  • $2.6 million to the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation around Telluride to replace buses and get more reliable service for mountain workers. 
  • $2.4 million for Steamboat Springs Transit to replace diesel with hybrids.
  • $1.8 million for the town of Vail to buy electric buses and charging equipment. 
  • $1.1 million for Mesa County for Grand Valley Transit to buy CNG buses to replace its aging fleet.

Michael Booth

Michael Booth is a Colorado Sun reporter covering health, health policy and the environment. Email: Twitter: @MBoothDenver