- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials in Sioux City are relying on city buses that have exceeded federal mileage guidelines because state and federal aid isn’t sufficient to replace them.

Sioux City Transit mechanics replace engines and transmissions on the city’s buses each year. Assistant city manager Mike Collett said the constant, preventative maintenance is necessary to keep the buses in top condition.

“Even though the miles are 450,000, it might have a brand-new engine in it,” said Collett, who oversees the city’s transit system.

Transit systems submit mileage readings for each of their vehicles to the Iowa Department of Transportation on July 1 of each year, according to the Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/1jHEd7v ). The age and mileage data is compiled into a point system that determines which systems will receive money.

Those funds pay 85 percent of the cost of new transit vehicles, a significant savings for a city replacing a $400,000 bus.

Once the money is gone, transit systems that didn’t receive money must pay the total cost or wait until next year for another review.

For each of the past two years, the Iowa DOT has disbursed about $5.8 million: $2.8 from the Federal Transit Administration and $3 million from a transfer of federal highway flex funds.

That money replaced 42 vehicles in Iowa in 2014. Of the 1,595 transit vehicles in the state, 880 - 55 percent - exceed their useful life guidelines, according to the Iowa DOT. Replacing all buses exceeding those guidelines would cost $117.3 million.

Useful life guidelines aren’t meant to indicate that vehicles surpassing them are unsafe, said Pam Lee, the DOT’s senior transit programs manager.

“It just means once they’ve reached their useful life, they’re eligible for federal funding,” Lee said.

For the past two years, Sioux City hasn’t received any of those funds because there were older buses in other transit systems.

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Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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