Centro will use $2.65M from feds to help buy buses from Whitestown

Centro of Oneida County will get $2.65 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, according to U.S. Rep. Michael A. Arcuri. Centro will use some of the money to help buy buses from a Whitestown manufacturer, officials said today.

Arcuri, D-24, Utica, announced late Thursday that the Syracuse-based bus service that operates routes in Rome and the Utica metro area will get money to purchase buses and equipment and to make other capital improvements.

"This bill is about jobs. I am glad to see federal economic recovery funds being used not only for jobs, but to immediately improve area transit, helping people get to the store and the doctor’s office," Arcuri said. "Better transit is the first step to rebuilding our downtowns and creating jobs and economic opportunity. I am glad to see funding from the Recovery Bill coming directly to our communities in such a targeted and timely fashion."

The stimulus bill includes funding for infrastructure improvements, aid to states and localities, tax cuts for the middle class and investments in education.

Centro will use some of the funds to help upgrade its fleet with environmentally clean vehicles for its communities, which will assist local business. Centro will purchase 18 40-foot Orion VII Compressed Natural Gas transit buses from Daimler Buses North America for delivery in the first quarter of 2010.

The buses cost $402,803 each, for a total of $7.25 million.

"We are committed to the environment and to providing our community with exceptional transportation services. These Orion VII CNG buses fulfill those goals and objectives," said Centro Executive Director Frank Kobliski. "We have operated Orion buses and Orion CNG buses for many years, and we are proud to purchase from Daimler Buses — a local bus manufacturer."

The Authority has an existing fleet of 120 Compressed Natural Gas transit buses. The 18 Orion buses, manufactured in Whitestown, also feature Carrier air-conditioning units, manufactured in Syracuse. The vehicles boast a stainless steel frame, as well as a Lift-U ramp that features a rising floor.

"This purchase would not be possible without the efforts of Congressmen Rep. Daniel Maffei and Rep. Michael Arcuri, each of whom worked hard to secure funding under the Federal Economic Recovery Act (stimulus) that will be used to pay for these buses," said Kobliski. "Their efforts will create jobs and protect our environment in Central New York."

"Centro’s commitment to Compressed Natural Gas buses has directly impacted the region’s air quality for the better, and their commitment should be commended," said Patrick Scully, chief commercial officer for Daimler Buses North America. "The combination of low emissions, while still maintaining a high level of power output makes the Orion VII CNG ideal transit bus for the terrain of Central New York and Centro."

The money helps solve a challenge Centro inherited about four years ago, when it took over operations in Utica and Rome. Both operations, formerly run by the municipalities, had little in the way of money set aside for the required 12-year bus replacement plan, said Kobliski. Now, the bus purchasing plan is back on track.

The Authority has plans to replace smaller buses in Utica used to pick up disabled users, and will be trying to get stimulus money earmarked for that use in order to replace one such bus in Rome as well.

The money also helped Centro avoid what might have been widespread fare increases and some cuts to service routes. The Authority ended up avoiding fare increases and service cuts in Oneida County — though some were done in the other counties.