Governor Ted Strickland directed the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) May 22 to change how Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) funding can be used, allowing local communities to retrofit older diesel engines with new, clean diesel technology.
Strickland’s order marks a change in policy by ODOT, which historically did not allow Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to use CMAQ funds in this manner. Opening up CMAQ funding for these types of projects is part of the ongoing mission of ODOT Director James G. Beasley to review how the funding sources administered by the department can best be used.
“Allowing local communities to make this investment will put them ahead of the curve in decreasing air pollution and helping our cities get closer to federal air quality attainment,” Strickland said. “The Ohio Department of Transportation will work closely with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and our local communities to make the air we breathe better.”
MPOs will now be able to use CMAQ funds budgeted to them over the next two years, and any unprogrammed funds from past years, to immediately address diesel-retrofitting efforts. The MPOs can retrofit older diesel engines on public transit, truck and construction fleets with new, clean diesel technology.
“CMAQ funds have a very specific purpose: to mitigate congestion and improve air quality,” said Beasley. “By giving local communities these new tools, we are also giving these communities more options to consider as they work with us to fight traffic and air quality problems.”
The Ohio EPA will work in partnership with ODOT to ensure CMAQ funds are properly administered to projects that will help bring areas in Ohio, particularly in northeastern Ohio, in attainment with federal air quality standards.
“This initiative by ODOT adds much-needed support to our diesel retrofitting of school buses in communities that do not meet federal air quality standards for fine particulates,” said Chris Korleski, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Ohio EPA created the Clean Diesel School Bus Fund in 2006 to encourage school districts to install pollution controls on diesel school buses, and use cleaner fuel to reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality. Ohio EPA reports that its retrofits will eliminate more than 4 tons of air pollution, including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and fine particulate emissions.