NCAT team effort adds 4 new transit buses

State, county, city and staff team up for $398K in additions

Representatives of the Illinois Department of Transportation cut the ribbon on four new NCAT buses unveiled on Tuesday afternoon in Ottawa.

A phrase that’s used quite often, that “teamwork makes the dream work,” was apt when applied to the latest windfall descending on North Central Area Transit.

NCAT held a ribbon-cutting Tuesday at its Chessie Street offices and garage in Ottawa to introduce not one or two but four new Ford Transit vans to the fleet that each and every day helps people in the Ottawa, La Salle, Peru and, starting July 1, Streator areas get to and from their appointments and other errands.

NCAT Transit Director Kim Zimmerman told the gathering of state, county and local dignitaries that the additions had a price tag of $398,000: $265,650 of it from a La Salle County American Rescue Plan Act grant and $135,000-plus coming from an Illinois Department of Transportation Rebuild Grant.

She thanked those entities as well as NCAT staff, the city of Ottawa and BPart Print Shop in Princeton, which added the graphics to each vehicle.

“It’s a great team,” Ottawa Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut said. “We have the right people down here, and we’re talking to the right people to get things like this done. … Because of them, we’ve gone from what was probably the worst transit system maybe in the entire state to one of the best right now. … It takes the right people who work hard, get along and get things done, and we have them right here.”

“We’re very excited to add these to our fleet,” Zimmerman said. “Hopefully, they’ll help us save on maintenance costs [and] fuel efficiency, among other things.”

Two of the buses have dedications to former NCAT drivers who have died – Eileen Fesco and David Ross – added to the graphics.

NCAT Operations Manager Rod Brady said the new buses are air-conditioned, have large windows and adjustable seating for nine passengers (when there are no wheelchairs), and contain wheelchair lifts that are rated to 800 pounds or more.

We look forward to continuing to grow and serve the public.”

—  Wayne Eichelkraut, Ottawa commissioner

However, they differ from the current NCAT buses in that they are physically larger (21 feet long, with the same headroom as the old ones), but also have a smaller V-6 engine that will make them much more fuel efficient.

“We’ve been running them for about two weeks now, and there’s a big change in our fuel costs,” Brady said. “That’s important. With the number of miles each of our vehicles put on in a single day, it doesn’t take long for miles to add up.”

The addition brings the NCAT fleet’s total number of vehicles to 31, with the possible addition of more vehicles coming from the state next year, Eichelkraut said.

He said a portion of the NCAT offices one day will be converted into a maintenance garage, where parts can be taken from older or obsolete buses in an effort to keep as many buses on the road as possible.

“If we had more drivers and had more buses, we’d have even more routes to run because the opportunities are there,” Eichelkraut said. “We look forward to continuing to grow and serve the public.”

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