Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feds fund new Mountain Rides buses

Equipment purchased with ‘economic stimulus’ dollars


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Mountain Rides board Chair Peter Everett snips the ribbon on Dec. 16 on one of four new buses bought for operations in the Wood River Valley with federal economic stimulus funding. From left, in front row, are board member Nils Ribi, Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller, Everett and board members Curtis Kemp, Jim Jaquet, Susan McBryant and Tom Blanchard. Photo by David N. Seelig

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority has four new buses running around the Wood River Valley, thanks to the generosity of Uncle Sam.

The four buses cost $860,000 and were paid for out of a $1.6 million grant that Mountain Rides received in federal "economic stimulus" funding in 2009.

"I think this is great use of stimulus funds when you look at our equipment needs," Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said. "We had buses that were 20 years old and with over a million miles."

The new equipment is allowing Mountain Rides to retire four older buses from service. Some of the new buses are already in operation, transporting commuters and tourists in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area or on the organization's Valley Route between the north and south valley. One of them is also planned for use for Hailey town service.

The new buses were built on International truck frames. They were purchased through DATTCO in New Britain, Conn., and CT and Rush Truck Center in Boise. The truck frames were converted into buses by Champion Bus in Imlay City, Mich.

It took more than a year from the time the buses were ordered until delivery.

The new buses come in two sizes. Two are 31 feet long and able to comfortably accommodate 25 people, while the other two are 36 feet long with a capacity for 33 riders.

Mountain Rides Operations Manager Jim Finch described the new buses as "roomier, with low floors for easier access for passengers and more energy efficient."

"I think they're at least 30-40 percent more efficient than your standard diesel engine," Finch said.

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By acting quickly last year, Mountain Rides was able to cash in on the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called "economic stimulus" funds, which allocated $787 billion nationwide to help stimulate a sluggish economy.

Miller said Mountain Rides received $1.45 million for new equipment, with the balance of the $1.6 million grant going to preventative maintenance, marketing and community outreach. The balance of the equipment money has already been spent on more replacement buses and vans that will be received in 2011.

New bus shelters

The city of Sun Valley was also able to cash in on economic stimulus funds, receiving $70,000 that was spent this fall on five new bus shelters in the city and a bus pullout on Elkhorn Road at Weyyakin Drive.

The new shelters, which help protect waiting bus passengers from the weather, were constructed in Elkhorn on Morning Star Road at Syringa Drive, on Morning Star at The Ranch condominiums, at the intersection of Elkhorn Road and Horseshoe Drive, at the corner of Lupine and Bluebell in Twin Creeks and on Dollar Road near the entrance to the Community School.

Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich stated in a press release that the federal funding helped to provide "positive infrastructure in our city and support the construction trade during a recession by putting to work people to build these shelters."

"We put 15 people to work on those shelters," said Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi, who is also a Mountain Rides board member. "It's kind of cool talking to those people. They were all out of work and need extra money for Christmas."

Miller said the new shelters also benefit Mountain Rides operations.

"Our ridership continues to grow, so adding amenities such as shelters is essential to our continued success," he said.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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