The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Senator Dick Durbin visits MTD, discusses $6.6M federal transit grant

Lisa Chasanov
Senator Dick Durbin and MTD CEO Karl Gnadt at the MTD training and maintenance facility on Monday

“Mother Earth is sending this message,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin during his visit to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s maintenance and training facility on Monday. “Wake up, do something now before it gets worse. And I think that’s the reason we are here today.”

Durbin’s visit to Champaign-Urbana comes after the MTD was awarded a $6.6 million federal grant as part of the Federal Transit Administration’s “Low or No Emission Vehicle Program.”

On June 26, the FTA announced that it would fund $1.69 billion in grants for low- and no-emission public transit across 46 states and territories.

“The funding came from a bipartisan infrastructure law,” Durbin explained. “Under President Biden, the federal government is making substantial investments in transit agencies even faster.”

According to Karl Gnadt, MTD’s managing director and CEO, the federal funding awarded to MTD through this grant program has gone toward the acquisition of more hydrogen-powered buses.

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“We’re very appreciative of Senator Durbin’s support of this specific grant application,” Gnadt said. “Even beyond that, we run hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses and those are more expensive than a regular diesel bus — or even a diesel electric hybrid bus — so funding is very important to us in order to accomplish our climate goals.”

During his visit, Durbin was given a tour of the MTD’s hydrogen production facility by Gnadt. On this tour, the senator learned more about MTD’s goals for future research and development.

“(MTD has also) been the only (transit agency) … that is using solar power to power the production of hydrogen,” Durbin said. “So it is a virtuous cycle — I didn’t take any science courses, but I think I just used that properly. It is a virtuous cycle from start to finish in terms of clean energy. … This is amazing.”

MTD hopes to work towards an even more environmentally-friendly fleet with time and funding, according to Gnadt.

“We just retired our last four fully diesel buses and we’re now 100% low and no emission,” Gnadt explained. “This grant will help us to stay on that path as we electrify.”

Durbin said in his address that MTD is one of two transit agencies in the United States that invests in and conducts similar research on hydrogen-fueled public transportation outside of California.

“They’ve been looking ahead for a long, long time — and that’s why MTD is a leader in our state and a leader in the nation,” Durbin said. “Be proud of that — and that it’s associated with a great University at the same time.”

The transportation fee assessed each semester by the University alongside tuition covers MTD ride fares for all students on campus. As a result, many students come into contact with the MTD system on a daily basis.

Durbin added that the proximity of MTD to the University may influence future generations of students who will witness the progress throughout their time in the Champaign-Urbana community.

“I am happy that students at this stage in their life are seeing this as well because they may be taking that message home,” Durbin explained. “It demystifies the science and technology. (It could make) people think this is a real option.”

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About the Contributor
Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
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