California’s much-anticipated zero-emission coach that will travel from Redding to Sacramento continues to have a bumpy ride.
The proposed electric bus service was expected to start in October last year. But the setbacks are piling up, and the North State commuter’s dream come true has been put on indefinite hold. The search for an operator for the service has also been stopped.
According to the Shasta Regional Transportation Agency, operator of the proposed Salmon Runner service, the loss of a $600,000 federal grant and denial of funding over the ensuing cycle created the current hurdles.
Grant managers at the California Department of Transportation “incorrectly awarded the funding in a business year that they later determined was ineligible,” according to a recent update to the program. That led to $600,000 in funding
withdrawn, according to the report.
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The flaw also caused another loss after Caltrans decided to fund only existing bus projects and declined an additional $600,000 grant, for a total impact of $1.2 million, according to a report by Shasta Regional Transportation Agency Executive Director Dan Little. .
“It was a big disappointment,” said Jennifer Pollom, senior transportation planner at the agency.
Facing another delay was a major blow, “especially given the recent cuts to Amtrak train service, Amtrak Thruway Bus service and Greyhound service in Redding,” the SRTA report said.
While some additional funding has been pledged, it will take an estimated $1.3 million annually to operate two round trips per day between Redding and Sacramento International Airport, with stopovers in Red Bluff and Orland.
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Only $770,000 was allocated by the state and other funding partners. “Most of the funding we would have received has been withdrawn,” Pollom said. “Stopgaps? Without funding, there’s no way to do it.”
The Salmon Runner program still has money in hand that is earmarked to cover the cost of leasing and ultimately purchasing electric vehicles for the service.
The county now plans to reapply to the state for funding for new operations to recoup what was lost. “Staff will apply for funding in the next cycle as further discussions with
Caltrans makes it clear that service is, in fact, a top priority in the North State, as stated in the past,” said Little.
In retrospect, Pollom said, the proposed October 2021 start date was deep in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has decimated the travel industry. “(That) wouldn’t have been a good time to start a new service and then have to report how badly the service was doing because no one wanted to travel,” she said.
“But we want the service to go along the Interstate 5 corridor between Redding and Sacramento,” Pollom said.
This story is the result of a reader’s question to the Ask the Record Searchlight reporting team. Information on how to submit your questions can be found in the following video.
Michele Chandler addresses city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter on @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here you go support our entire editorial team’s dedication to public journalism by signing up today.