Pittsburgh Regional Transit missed out on its attempt to obtain a $250 million federal grant to replace its long-term maintenance facility in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood.

But the Washington County Transportation Authority did get a $15 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation, one of 117 announced Tuesday. Sheila Gombita, executive director for the agency that operates as Freedom Transit, said the grant is the final piece of funding for its first maintenance garage, a $54 million facility to be built in South Strabane.

Federal officials awarded nearly $1.5 billion in grants from two programs, Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities, and Low or No Emission. The facilities program was created under the Biden administration’s infrastructure strategy while the low-emissions program was greatly expanded.

PRT spokesman Adam Brandolph said the agency will review its application to see if it could be submitted for funding under another program or if changes should be made for resubmission to the same program next year. The agency has identified an under-used park-and-ride site in Moon for a new garage and included a $50 million local match in its capital budget this year, but it hasn’t started designing it yet.

The new facility isn’t a necessity yet, but the Manchester site is old, too small to handle all of the long-term maintenance work and needs $40 million in repairs that won’t solve the shortage of space. The proposed site on University Boulevard in Moon also would include space for workforce training, paint shops, parts storage and a sign shop.

“Building a new heavy-maintenance facility is overdue,” Brandolph said. “It’s working for us for now, but it needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.

“It is an extremely important project, and we will seek alternate funding sources.”

He said that could include borrowing money, but the agency hasn’t reached that point yet.

It also wants to add another regional maintenance garage at about the same cost because it can’t add vehicles to expand service without more room to maintain them.

In Washington County, Gombita said her agency bought property more than a year ago on Berry Road in South Strabane to build its first maintenance facility. Right now, its fleet of 65 vehicles for fixed-route service and shared-ride service are maintained at two private facilities where it leases space from private operators.

The agency is seeking bids for demolition of the existing buildings on the site, which should begin in the fall. Construction of the new facility should begin next year and be finished in 2026.

Gombita said it hasn’t been determined yet whether the agency will continue using private contractors at the new facility or hire its own employees for maintenance and other work. Right now, it is the only public transit agency in the state without its own maintenance facility, and buses are stored outside.

The biggest change with the new site is that it will have maintenance space and fueling facilities for vehicles that run on natural gas, a move Gombita said the agency has wanted to make for several years. It expects to replace its 14 diesel-powered buses on fixed routes with buses that run on compressed natural gas.

“It will be a cost savings because CNG is much cheaper than diesel,” she said. “It’s also a nice fit because Washington County is one of the top producers of natural gas in the state.”

The local agency will contribute $425,000 to the project while the rest is made up of state and federal funds. Washington County received the only grant in Pennsylvania.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.