The days of diesel-powered buses rolling along Aquidneck Island streets are numbered, thanks to a new federal RAISE grant to procure 25 new clean-energy electric buses and recharging infrastructure.

Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced a new $22,370,800 federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE) grant for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). 

According to a press release from the congressional delegation, this project will fund charging infrastructure, facility upgrades, and the procurement of approximately 25 battery-electric buses which will enable all Newport-based transit services to be electric.

“This federal funding will help accelerate RIPTA’s transition to a clean energy future, curb pollution, and also help pump the brakes on climate change,” said Senator Reed, who helped create the original RAISE grant program (previously known as TIGER and BUILD) in 2009.  Reed also successfully earmarked $4 million for the project in the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations law and previously delivered a $5.15 million Low-No Emissions Bus Grant to help RIPTA begin to convert its Newport bus fleet to lower emission, clean transportation alternatives.

“Battery-powered buses will soon be the cleanest, most efficient way to get around Aquidneck Island,” said Senator Whitehouse, a Newport resident and senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  “This is a win for passengers, who will get to ride on state-of-the-art electric buses, and for our environment.”

“Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, RIPTA is on the verge of replacing its diesel-powered buses with a fully electric, Newport-based bus fleet. Soon enough, all public buses operating on Aquidneck Island will be fully electric, and they’ll have the electric charging infrastructure needed to support them,” said Rep. Jim Langevin. “I’m proud that these federal dollars will be used to help Rhode Island meet the threat of climate change head on, so the Ocean State can continue leading the charge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition away from dirty, fossil fuels.”

“This significant federal investment in electric buses will help Rhode Island continue to lead the way in green energy innovation. This RAISE grant funding will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, advance RIPTA’s ongoing efforts to make their fleet more environmentally sustainable, and combat climate change right here at home,” said Congressman Cicilline.

“We are grateful for Senator Reed and the entire Congressional delegation’s steadfast support of public transportation, including their commitment to new battery-powered buses with zero emissions,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA CEO. “Their help in securing this most recent funding makes it possible for us to continue to move forward with our plan to electrify bus service on Aquidneck Island and our overall goal to improve air quality in our state.”

RAISE grants support transportation planning and capital projects that have a significant local or regional impact, particularly in underserved communities.

This new federal grant is about increasing opportunity, connecting communities, and preparing for the future. It will help RIPTA advance a major part of the Rhode Island Transit Master Plan.

All four members of the delegation voted to include $7.5 billion over five years for RAISE grants in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that was signed into law last year by President Biden.

Since 2010, Rhode Island has been awarded over $208 million in competitive RAISE/TIGER/BUILD grants.

With this latest grant, RIPTA has now been awarded over $62 million in federal competitive grants since 2018 for capital investments, such as purchasing electric buses, rehabbing its maintenance facilities, and building new bus hubs.

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

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In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
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