Biden infrastructure law funds help replace diesel with electric buses in Wisconsin


Diesel pollution has been associated with cardiac and respiratory illnesses as well as greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The city of Madison, Wisconsin, will use federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to purchase a new fleet of 46 electric buses, allowing the city to cut down on harmful pollutants emitted by diesel engines.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway held a press conference on May 17 to highlight the city's plans for using funds from the infrastructure act that President Joe Biden signed into law last November.

"We had been planning to do a mixed fleet — some electric buses and some conventional diesel buses," Rhodes-Conway told reporters. "But with the advent of the funding for electric vehicles in the infrastructure act, we're able to switch our fleet to fully electric."

The mayor said the federal funds would allow the city to avoid buying more diesel buses and "locking in that pollution for years."

Rhodes-Conway also projected that Madison would eliminate up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gases for each bus each year, calling it "a really remarkable reduction in our climate-change contributions."

Diesel emissions "contain numerous pollutants, including soot, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide, that adversely affect cardiovascular and respiratory health," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each year, roughly 400,000 Americans have asthma attacks and 27,000 Americans have heart attacks associated with diesel emissions, according to a 2005 study from the Clean Air Task Force. The organization estimated that in 2010, the cost for health damages associated with diesel particles would be $139 billion.

A 2009 study from the Department of Transportation found that 29% of greenhouse gas emissions within the United States can be attributed to transportation and that transitioning to low-emission vehicles reduces the production of those gases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has described greenhouse gases as "the most significant driver of observed climate change since the mid-20th century."

Wisconsin will receive $592 million from the Biden administration's infrastructure law over a five-year period to improve public transportation within the state. The state will also receive $5.4 billion in federal funding through the infrastructure law to repair highways and bridges.

The law has allocated $89.9 billion to be spent on public transportation improvements nationwide over the next five years, $5.6 billion of which has been allocated to replace existing vehicles in public transportation systems across the country with low-emission and no-emission buses.

Democrats in Congress passed the infrastructure bill and Biden signed it into law last November. Every Wisconsin Democratic member of Congress, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), voted in favor of the bill, while every Wisconsin Republican member of Congress, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), voted against the bill.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.