OCEAN CITY – The transfer of five buses to Ocean City’s public works department is expected to bolster the town’s aging fleet.
In Tuesday’s meeting of the Ocean City Transportation Committee, Public Works Director Hal Adkins announced the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has donated five used buses to the town.
“These buses are actually really nice,” he said. “They are not new. The buses actually meet useful life expectancy themselves in Baltimore, but they are better than the ones we are running.”
Adkins said 22 of the town’s buses were eligible for replacement and that the donation would allow the resort to avoid paying nearly $485,000 each for new buses. This will be the second year Ocean City has received donated buses from the MTA.
“It should control or lower our annual operating expenses for parts and labor to keep the fleet going,” he said.
Adkins noted MTA’s donation would be in addition to the millions of dollars the agency has already contributed to the new public works facility at 2nd Street. The facility, which is currently moving forward with a design build concept, will serve, among other things, as a new staging and maintenance area for the Boardwalk trams and will house beach-cleaning operations and other public works functions.
“The MTA has been extremely kind to the Mayor and Council tied to the multi-million dollars’ worth of funding for the campus project that is about to break ground,” he said. “In doing so, we acknowledge at the staff level right up front that it was going to limit our ability to get things from them on an annual basis for the next few years while they continue to fund these millions. One of the items we acknowledge we would be limited on is the annual replacement of any quantity of buses.”
Despite the unexpected windfall, Adkins said a number of aging buses would need to be replaced in the coming years. To that end, town officials are looking to secure a portion of money awarded to the state through a Volkswagen (VW) diesel settlement.
“[Grants Coordinator] Wayne Pryor is also assisting us in pursuing grant funds tied to the VW settlement to replace some of the buses with new buses,” he said.
As part of the settlement, Transit Administrator Brian Connor said Maryland would be eligible to receive more than $75 million for emission reduction strategies and programs.
“This money is available to both public and private to replace dirty engines,” he said. “It all leans towards electric, but clean diesel is certainly on the table and we are eligible.”