Recently sanitized and reconfigured Cherriots buses are seen at the Del Webb Operations Facility on Monday, April 6. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Following through on one of its strategic goals, Salem’s transit agency could have electric buses on the road starting next year.

Cherriots this month received a federal Department of Transportation grant for $3.5 million to purchase five Gillig battery electric buses and supporting infrastructure.

Cherriots General Manager Allan Pollock said his agency has applied for similar grants in the past but wasn’t successful.

He said this time the district included an electric bus corridor in its proposal. Cherriots chose Route 11 which goes along Northeast Lancaster Drive, because it’s the most popular route.

Pollock said one of the district’s strategic priorities is being environmentally responsible and buying zero emission buses works toward that goal.

“We’re excited about introducing electric buses into our fleet,” he said. “It gets us to try the new technology and as we’re learning more about that then prepare for future applications.”

Now the agency is preparing to purchase the buses and work with Salem Electric to install charging stations at Del Webb Operations Facility in north Salem.

Pollock said the electric buses are $900,000 apiece, about double what compressed natural gas buses the agency currently uses cost.

He said there’s a significantly higher up-front cost, but the bus will be cheaper over its lifetime because maintenance is less costly.

But it will be at least a year before the new buses will hit the road, and they’ll replace old buses past their useful life.

Pollock said Cherriots is planning to brand the news buses differently to create excitement for the additions. 

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