FILE - Charter bus

(The Center Square) – Kentucky plans to use $8.5 million from a lawsuit fund to expand transportation services and options around the state and help school districts replace buses, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday.

The bulk of the money will be sent to four regions to buy cleaner emission transit buses in areas required to meet federal air quality standards.

“The use of $8.5 million of the settlement for the purchase of cleaner-emission transit buses serves our public in two ways,” Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said. “Reduced emissions mean improved air quality, which is a health benefit for everyone. And, the upgrading of transit vehicles means better service to our fellow Kentuckians who rely on public transportation for getting to work, school, doctor appointments, shopping and other places they have to go in the course of their daily lives.”

The Transit Authority of River City, in Jefferson County, plans to replace 45 older buses with cleaner, more full-efficient buses with nearly $5 million. Also, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky will replace six older diesel buses with six new ones with a little more than $2 million.

Both organizations are in ozone nonattainment areas, which have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Lexington will use $1.5 million to replace six older diesel buses with four new natural gas and two all-electric buses, while Owensboro will replace one older bus with a new electric bus.

These two areas have not met air quality standards in the past.

The money comes the state’s more than $20 million share of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. That was part of $100 million secured when Beshear, then the state’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit against the automaker. He claimed Volkswagen was deceiving Kentucky consumers.

“We held Volkswagen accountable for deceiving consumers and now we are using those funds to build a better Kentucky with safe, reliable transportation to help Kentuckians get to work, to the doctor and to the grocery store,” Beshear said. “This funding will help reduce pollution to create cleaner air and improve transportation options in four regions of the commonwealth.”

Also, the fund will help reimburse some Kentucky school districts for up to 50% of the cost of replacing up to five buses.

“We estimate approximately 170 buses can be replaced with this allocation of Volkswagen Mitigation Funds,” Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said. “What a difference that will make for our air quality and for the children who rise those school buses every day.”

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.