TriMet currently has 10 electric buses in its fleet.

BEAVERTON, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — More battery-powered buses are coming to the Portland area, and Beaverton is where they’re beginning.

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici secured millions of dollars for Northwest Oregon through a recent federal spending bill. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Bonamici got up close and personal with the newest electric additions to the TriMet fleet before ceremonially handing off a check for $5 million to add more charging stations for battery-powered buses.

Led by TriMet general manager Sam Desue Jr. and Young Park, TriMet’s manager for zero emission buses, Bonamici explored the ins and outs of an electric battery bus that “fuels up” at the Merlo garage in Beaverton while visiting the facility on a brisk February morning.

The Merlo bus garage has been the testing grounds for the small — but growing — number of electric buses in TriMet’s transportation network.

With $5 million headed its way, thanks to Bonamici, TriMet will expand the number of bus charging stations at the Merlo garage, as well as at its Powell bus facility in Southeast Portland.

“We know that we can’t solve the climate crisis without tackling transportation,” Bonamici said. “Expanding and electrifying transit must be part of the solution, and here it is.”

TriMet currently has 10 electric buses in its fleet, some long-range and some short-range.

This fall, TriMet will receive its first bulk order of 24 long-range electric buses — a $26.7 million purchase aimed at reducing the transit agency’s emissions across its service areas in the Portland metro.

TriMet’s goal is to have a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040 and reduce its operations to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Transitioning from zero emissions by 2040 is an impressive undertaking in a short amount of time,” Desue said. “We rely on partners like Representative Bonamici and the Biden administration to help us with the biggest change in transportation technology in the United States in 120 years, since the launch of diesel.”

Electric buses reduce emissions, as they don’t run on diesel like typical buses, and are quieter and easier to maintain than traditional buses.

The expanded electric bus offerings will not only increase transit capacity, Bonamici said, but improve the air quality in the metro area, which can affect some communities more disproportionately than others.

This isn’t the first leg up TriMet has received from the federal government in efforts to reduce transportation emissions.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley secured $3.4 million for the transit agency in 2016 to purchase four battery-electric buses, via funding from the Federal Transit Administration.

TriMet last summer received another $5.6 million to renovate the Beaverton Transit Center to support bus operations and add more space for electric buses, through the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package.

The most recent piece of funding comes from a slate of community projects selected by Bonamici that were included in a recent federal funding bill. Her 15 approved appropriations will send over $35 million to governments, agencies and nonprofits in Northwest Oregon.

Bonamici was in Beaverton earlier this month to hand a $4 million check from the same pot of money to the city of Beaverton for its Downtown Loop pedestrian safety projects, just weeks after the congresswoman and her husband, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon, were hit by a vehicle while walking in a crosswalk in Northwest Portland.

While TriMet is looking to reduce emissions and increase capacity across the Portland metro area, Beaverton is also prioritizing new projects that make traveling the city more safe and environmentally friendly.

Beaverton’s 2018 Active Transportation Plan outlines a variety of goals to increase pedestrian access to public transit stops through safer intersections and routes. The main objective of the long-range plan is to reduce carbon emissions and improve safety for all modes of transit, including buses and bicycles.

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