State ecology department grants buses for Pullman’s schools

District buys four new buses with $12 million replacement plan



New low emission buses that Joe Thornton purchased for Pullman School District at the bus garage.

HANNAH WELZBACKER, Evergreen reporter

Pullman School District has received a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to purchase new low-emission buses.

Joseph Thornton, director of operations for the Pullman School District, said each bus costs approximately $130,000 and the grant covers $35,000 per bus. The school district cannot currently afford the remaining amount, which is approximately $95,000 per bus.

Thornton said Pullman had the money to purchase four of the nine buses this year and plan to purchase more next year. The school district was able to purchase two diesel and two gas buses, which are the first gas school buses in Pullman.

Thornton said the department allocated grants to three local school districts: Pullman, Garfield and Rosalia. Garfield and Rosalia each received a grant to pay for one new bus.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s website, the money for the buses came from a $28.4 million settlement from Volkswagen. This settlement came after the company violated Washington’s Clean Air Act. The department has allocated $12 million to replace 336 old school buses and reduce diesel pollution.

“The grant required that we replace all pre-1999 buses,” Thornton said. “They were clearly at the point where we needed to get rid of them.”

He said buses were previously all diesel because they were historically cheaper, lasted longer and were easier to work on. However, because of pollution, diesel buses need additions to the engine to make them burn cleaner, which in turn makes them more expensive to repair.

The new buses seat 65 passengers and are already in use in one of the 20 individual routes in Pullman, Thornton said. The school district currently has 24 buses and serves over 950 students per day, not including students who use the partnership between the school district and Pullman Transit.