MTD gets sustainability award, approves more green projects

CHAMPAIGN — Minutes after receiving the 2013 Governor's Sustainability Award from the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center, members of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Board on Wednesday approved two more "green" projects: solar lighting at 10 bus shelters and high-efficiency toilets and urinals at the Illinois Terminal building.

The projects are part of a long-term environmental commitment, according to retiring MTD Director Bill Volk.

"The reason we moved in this direction basically is that, if we're going to promote ourselves as being a green alternative, then we need to walk the walk," Volk said.

Among the MTD's recent "green" initiatives:

— A commitment to low-emission, fuel-saving diesel-electric hybrid buses. The MTD operates 55 hybrid coaches that make up 54 percent of its fleet — the highest percentage by a transit system in Illinois. Hybrid emissions are up to 90 percent less than a conventional combustion engine, according to the MTD.

"Because the hybrid buses are more expensive," said Karl Gnadt, the MTD's managing director designate, "the general view is to buy a token number of hybrids so that 5 or 10 percent of your fleet is hybrids. But that's not what we're doing. The hybrids actually work. We're seeing a 25 percent reduction in fuel consumption and they're nearly clean. And the noise pollution is reduced by about half. All of that makes the upcharge worthwhile."

— A solar array under construction on the roof of the MTD maintenance facility at 803 E. University Ave., U. When completed in February, the system will have 1,212 panels that will provide up to 25 percent of the building's annual energy use and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Eventually, the facility will also have full LED lighting, Volk said.

"I think our array will be the largest array in the community until the university builds the one it has planned," he said of a UI project south of Windsor Road.

— LED lighting being installed at the Illinois Terminal. The retrofit project, for all interior and exterior lights at the downtown Champaign building, will cost about $270,000. It is 100 percent state-funded and will save an estimated $6,200 a year on electricity costs and $3,800 annually in fixture replacements.

— A bus-wash-bay system installed in 2010 that reuses water from the initial rinse cycle, saving 676,500 gallons in its first year in service.

— A geothermal heating and cooling system at the MTD's administration and operations building in east Urbana that cuts greenhouse-gas emissions. It was paid for with federal funds.

— Permeable brick pavers installed at the administration and operations building, aimed at allowing more groundwater recharge and less groundwater pollution.

— Installation of a white roof at the administration and operations building that reflects rather than absorbs sunlight, reducing cooling costs.

On Wednesday, the board approved a $22,940 contract with Glesco Electric Inc. of Urbana for solar lighting at 10 bus shelters. The systems will be installed at three Champaign locations: Country Fair shopping center, the corner of John Street and Crescent Drive, and at Neil Street and Kenyon Road; four Urbana sites: Town and Country Apartments, two at the Meijer store, and at Stone Creek Church on Race Street; two on the University of Illinois campus: at Oak Street and Hazelwood Drive and First Street and Hazelwood; and one in Savoy, at First Street and Curtis Road.

"These are small solar panels that will collect and store the solar energy to provide lighting at night," said Gnadt, who will replace Volk as director next year. "These are areas that are difficult for us to get power to. The side benefit is that once they're in, they're in, and we're not paying for power."

The board also approved a $33,482 contract with Davis-Houk Mechanical Inc. for plumbing-fixture replacements at the Illinois Terminal. The project, 100 percent state-funded, calls for replacing all first- and second-floor fixtures in the building with high-efficiency toilets and urinals. Conventional toilets use 3.5 gallons of water, low-fuel models use 1.6 gallons and the new fixtures at the Illinois Terminal will use 1.28 gallons, said the building's manager, Adam Shanks.

Volk said "being green is a positive in this community. The university students and generally the campus community appreciates this. If we're going to push ourselves as being green, we have to do these sorts of things as well."

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