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Officials Scramble to Buy Buses and Beat Smog Rule

TIMES STAFF WRITER

City and county officials in the Antelope Valley are rushing to buy about 20 new diesel buses worth $2 million before new federal anti-smog rules take effect that will require cleaner but more costly vehicles.

The Palmdale City Council agreed Thursday night to have Los Angeles County officials prepare a bid for the buses on behalf of the county and the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, which fund bus service in the region.

Air pollution officials in Southern California have been pushing bus operators to shift from traditional diesel oil to methanol or other cleaner-burning fuels. But Palmdale officials said such buses are too costly.

Dolores Buddell-Teubner, an analyst for the city, said alternate fuel buses can cost three times as much as diesel versions and have higher maintenance costs, at a time when city and county officials are trying to limit the valley’s bus expenses.

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New federal standards require that all public transit buses ordered after the end of this year must run on alternate fuels by 1995, a city staff report said. But if the two cities and county can order the diesel buses this year, they could continue to operate them on diesel fuel for their 10- to 12-year life.

The two cities and the county are looking to buy new buses because they plan by next year to take over the Antelope Valley’s bus service from a private company that now operates 14 diesel buses under contract to the county.

In another transit issue, the Palmdale council awarded a $690,400 contract to C.A. Rasmussen Inc. for construction of a long-awaited 624-space park-and-ride lot on 8.7 acres the city owns on the east side of the Antelope Valley Freeway just south of Avenue S.

The project, intended to encourage bus use and van-pools, is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. It has been a city priority because many Palmdale residents who drive the congested freeway to jobs in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley are expected to use buses or car-pools when the lot becomes available.

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