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The Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLINK) will invest in new vehicle charging technology for its bus fleet thanks to a new $5 million state grant. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently announced that MetroLINK has been awarded the grant through the Rebuild Illinois program. The funding will be used to purchase on-street, overhead vehicle charging equipment to be installed at Metro passenger terminals as well as at Metro’s Operations and Maintenance Center in Moline. The systems are needed to support Metro’s growing fleet of battery electric buses. Since 2018, Metro has been introducing the green energy buses to its fleet, which serves the Illinois Quad Cities region. The transportation system currently has eight electric buses but will expand to 17 in April, MetroLINK said. "This Rebuild Illinois grant will help keep MetroLINK on the cutting edge of sustainable transit technology,” Illinois State Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, said in a news release. “The easier it is to charge and keep these buses on the streets, the more efficiently we can get our residents to work, to school, or to the grocery store.” The new state funding will allow Metro to provide overhead pantograph chargers at downtown terminals including East Pointe in East Moline, Centre Station in Moline, and District Station in Rock Island. The chargers will provide an automated “top off” charge in 5-7 minutes to allow for greater vehicle utilization and operating range that will last and entire service day. In addition, the grant funds will allow Metro to expand its current depot charging system at the operations center at 1515 River Drive. Jennifer Hirsch, MetroLINK’s manager of administration, said the transit system’s existing equipment includes seven standalone charging stations at its operations center. It will be replaced with the new overhead equipment that will cascade over the buses and be able to charge up to 20 buses simultaneously, she told the QCBJ. Currently, there is no charging equipment at the terminals. “With 30% of our fleet soon running on battery electric, these funds come at an especially critical time as we look to increase our battery electric bus footprint in an effort to promote environmental responsibility,” Berlinda Tyler-Jamison, MetroLINK Board of Trustees chair, said in the release. Illinois State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, also pointed to the importance of providing access to public transportation and diversifying the mass transit system. “As the need for public transportation continues to grow, this investment will grant MetroLINK the resources it needs to connect communities in an environmentally-friendly way throughout the Quad City region,” he said in the release. MetroLINK has been a leader in sustainable transportation. In 2002, the countywide bus system began transitioning its fleet to compressed natural gas. Today, 70% of its fleet runs on compressed natural gas. It introduced battery electric buses in 2018. The county mass transit district was recognized for its effort in 2019 when it won a sustainability award in the Silver category from the American Public Transportation Association. MetroLINK was honored for its focus on sustainability including voluntary efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, building efficient and sustainable infrastructure, and communicating transit’s environmental benefits to the community. MetroLINK serves the Illinois Quad Cities communities of Carbon Cliff, Colona, East Moline, Hampton, Milan, Moline, Rock Island and Silvis. Services include the Metro bus system, ADA/Paratransit, and the Channel Cat Water Taxi. More information can be found at MetroQC.com.