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La Crosse to purchase new diesel bus through pollution fines

La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – La Crosse is in somewhat of a growth period for public transportation as its aging fleet still needs a face lift.

The city is looking to replace eleven buses due to age and emission issues. One of those will be a new $420,000 clean-diesel bus purchased with fines paid by Volkswagen. In 2016, the company agreed to pay $2.9 billion to settle a violation of the Clean Air Act, in which they cheated to make it appear their diesel vehicles met standards.

Wisconsin will receive $67 million from that settlement, over $30 million of which will be used to replace old buses in ten communities.

The settlement came in and the money was allocated,” Transit Manager Adam Lorentz said. “La Crosse was fortunate to get a bus.”

Environmental advocates have criticized the move to buy diesel, saying this was a perfect chance to purchase electric buses. However, some in the diesel industry say that will take more effort than meets the eye.

Anytime you look at alternative fuels or alternative methods of propulsion of these vehicles, you have to look at the infrastructure that supports them,” Casey Eglinton, head of Western Tech’s Diesel and Heavy Technician Program, said. “When we talk about electric vehicles, we have to have ways to charge them and we are also limited on the distance on how far we can travel.”

Through previous grants, La Crosse will eventually have infrastructure for up to three electric buses, which they will also be purchasing. For now, Lorentz said they wanted to replace one of their buses with older diesel engines.

The reason why they are trying to eliminate those buses is because of the heavy emissions that they do put out,” Lorentz said.

The contrast between those two buses from 1992 to what we have now in 2018 is night and day difference,” Eglinton said. “They’re a much much cleaner engine, much more sophisticated… it’s just really a better choice.”

Lorentz said the goal is to replace eleven buses by 2020. So far up to eight are spoken for.

Sam Shilts

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