Illinois EPA launched the “Driving a Cleaner Illinois” program today, aimed at improving air quality in the state by primarily removing old diesel engines from service. This program makes way for cities, schools, transit agencies, and private businesses to submit project ideas to the Illinois EPA detailing how they will replace the old engines with newer, more environmentally friendly options.
The “Driving a Cleaner Illinois” program is funded through a recent $108 million allocation to the state of Illinois from the Volkswagen (VW) Settlement. The Illinois EPA is opening the first round of funding with $20 million for government-owned commuter rail and government-owned public transit bus projects in the Chicago Metropolitan area, which has the highest population and most robust public transportation networks in the state.
Subsequent funding rounds will include other areas of the state that were affected by the VW vehicles, including the Metro-East St. Louis area along with Champaign, DeKalb, LaSalle, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon and Winnebago Counties. “Commuter rail projects will remove some of the oldest, dirtiest diesel engines in Illinois from service,” said Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina. “Funding replacement of transit buses will promote all-electric and alternate fuel technology and funding for electric school buses will protect the public health of some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans.”
The new program comes on the heels of Illinois EPA submitting its Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP) to the VW Mitigation Trust. During public outreach for the BMP, the Agency received over 1,600 comments and 225 survey responses on how it should use the funds. From the public input, the Agency made changes to the BMP including increasing funding for school bus projects, increasing funding for on-road vehicle projects and providing funding for light duty electric vehicle charging stations.
This program opens today with applications available through a Notice of Funding Opportunity. Project applications will be due October 15, 2018. The Illinois EPA’s Volkswagen Settlement website contains additional information on the VW Settlement, BMP, and a link to the Notice of Funding Opportunity, http://www.epa.illinois.gov/topics/air-quality/vw-settlement/index.