COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - The second round of funding from the state’s share of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust will be invested in propane fueled buses.
Governor Henry McMaster, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer made the announcement Tuesday and they say the funds will update the state’s aging school bus fleet.
In addition to 235 school buses, the funds will also purchase three electric transit buses to be used in Charleston and Florence.
“Today marks an important day for our state,” McMaster said. “Director Farmer and his team accepted an immense challenge in determining how these funds should be invested to benefit as many South Carolinians as possible, and they have exceeded expectations. Because of today’s announcement, those in our state who rely on public transit and the children who rely on our school buses will be safer.”
McMaster says he appointed the Department of Insurance as the lead agency for administering the state’s $34 million allocation under the 2017 Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust.
Education officials say the new buses will put the state on the edge of meeting a more than decade-long goal of getting school buses on cycle to be replaced every 15 years.
The state buys and maintains more than 5,000 school buses for all its public school districts.
“This announcement shows South Carolina is fully committed to providing the safest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly school buses in the nation,” State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said. “Not only will these new propane buses help ensure over 300,000 bus riders get to and from school safely and on time, it will save tax payers millions of dollars while drastically reducing emissions.”
Officials say SC Department of Education was awarded $23,635,830 for 235 propane school buses. McMaster says the Department of Education has also committed $87,400 to build two propane fueling stations to expand the propane school bus fleet throughout the state.
Beaufort County, Berkeley County, Charleston County and Dorchester County School District Two were all included in the list of school districts receiving buses.
Once the new buses arrive, officials say the state will have less than 270 that are more than 15 years old and most of those are used for spare parts or as back up if a newer bus breaks down.
“This is an important step toward cleaner, safer transportation for South Carolina,” Director Ray Farmer said.
Additionally, officials say the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority was awarded $608,000 for one electric transit bus.
State officials say the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments has committed 20% of the funds as a local match.