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Passengers board a bus at the Mountain Metropolitan Transit’s downtown bus on Kiowa Street and Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs in 2014.

Three Colorado Springs buses are going green with a $2 million injection from the Volkswagen settlement, the Colorado Department of Transportation has announced.

In all, the lawsuit money will pay for two dozen electric buses in Colorado.

The state is getting more than $78.7 million from the $14.7 billion nationwide settlement of federal claims against the German automaker, whose diesel-engine software disabled emission controls, turning them on only when a vehicle was being tested. This caused the release of thousands of tons of NOX (nitrogen oxide) emissions measured at nine to 38 times the U.S. limit.

Colorado Springs’ new rides, replacing buses in service since 2006. are expected to run on Route 3, Routes 10/1, Route 36 in Manitou Springs and Routes 5/25.

These will be Mountain Metro’s first electric buses, and the settlement paves the way to add more later, said Craig Blewitt, transit services manager with Mountain Metropolitan Transit.

The system should have all low- or no-emissions buses by 2035, reducing air pollution and engine maintenance.

The buses aren’t as green as they appear, though. As the city relies on coal as its primary energy source, the buses are powered by fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. And some routes are longer than the 200 miles that an overnight charge provides, he said.

Blewitt said he hopes the city can pitch a compelling argument for more dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Low/No Emissions Vehicle Program.

Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order in January to accelerate the roll-out of zero-emission vehicles, directing transportation officials to plan for more electric vehicles and set the state on a path to align with California’s stringent standards.

“This investment will help our communities expand transit to be cleaner, and will help all of Colorado move to a more sustainable energy future,” Polis said in a news release. “Expanding travel options and choices will help to reduce traffic and congestion, and when vehicles are using clean energy, we all win with cleaner air.”

Polis’ predecessor, John Hickenlooper, had helped secure $10 million from the Colorado Energy Office for an electric vehicle charging network across Fort Collins, Boulder, Craig, Dinosaur, Montrose, Cortez, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Gunnison, Salida, Cañon City, Pueblo, Alamosa, La Junta, Lamar, Limon and Burlington, among other cities.

Hickenlooper also signed an interstate pact with seven of Colorado’s neighbors to expand charging stations on cross-boundary highways.

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

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