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Massachusetts to Retrofit All Diesel School and Transit Buses in State

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is dedicating $22.5 million to retrofit 8,400 public school and regional transit buses in the state by 2010 in a deal designed to offset pollution from the Big Dig project in Boston.

The agreement is a key component in the state’s efforts to reduce the health impacts of diesel fuel emissions. The diesel retrofit initiative, an agreement between the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT), and the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), also reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to urban transit expansion with the construction of Silver Line Phase III.

This agreement reflects the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensure that the air quality impacts of the Central Artery Project are effectively mitigated.

—Environmental Affairs Secretary Robert W. Golledge Jr.

Under the agreement, EOT will commit $22.5 million to retrofit all diesel-powered regional transit and public schools buses in the state by September 30, 2010. EOT will provide $7.5 million annually in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to accomplish that goal.

Further conditions of the agreement include:

  • EOT will direct $125,000 to the MBTA to perform additional testing of locomotive diesel oxidation catalysts on T commuter rail locomotives. Once tested and approved, EOT will direct an additional $125,000 to the MBTA to install diesel oxidation catalysts on commuter rail locomotives; and

  • The continued implementation and compliance with the MHD off-road construction equipment diesel retrofit program, certifying that all contractor equipment over 50 horsepower, that is used on state construction projects, has been diesel retrofitted.


Mark A

Retrofit with what, hydrogen, gasoline, DME? And is the retrofit because of diesel fuel emissions, or diesel exhaust emissions?


Emissions reduction devices, I imagine, like oxydation catalysts and the like. From what I can tell out here, they are certainly not seeking to replace every diesel engine with an new engine adapted to an alternative fuel, and they are not seeking to build a whole new fueling infrastructure.

The MBTA adopted a policy a couple of years ago of buying CNG powered buses when replacing elements of the fleet, so there is some CNG infrastructure out there. But they aren't rushing to re-engine every school bus in the state, as well as the locomotives on their commuter rail system.

This is largely a blip on the radar, which I have a parochial interest in because it will improve my local air quality somewhat (I live a block from some MBTA commuter rail tracks) -- not that it's too bad to begin with. The issue is diesel engine exhaust, and the solution is predictably incremental.

Daniel B

"Retrofit" is just a euphemism for "boondoggle." All they have to do is use biodiesel instead of petroleum diesel, and harmful emmissions will drop to nearly zero. Instead, they're going to spend millions for devices to clean up the dirty emmissions from petroleum disel -- which isn't even as dirty anymore as it used to be because of the new EPA standard for ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel.

fyi CO2

You have to welcome the mitigation effort and hope for efficacy.

NBK, I read some contrary info (according to the EPA the entire state has unhealthy air quality)


It's not explained in this article what the 'Big Dig' project actually is. I would be interested to know as I'm far from being a local. Can you tell us, NBK-Boston? I'm sure it's got nothing to with archaeology.


Biodiesel is not very widely available up here, and not particularly cheap to ship in. Let alone building dedicated fueling depots for it.

Spending $2600 per vehicle in retrofits does not strike me as excessive ($22.5m / 8400 buses). ULSD reduces diesel emissions, but it does not automatically reduce PM and NOx. However, it allows for the installation of more advanced emissions control devices (which would be poisoned in a high sulfur environment), which seems to be just what the authorities are doing right now.

New England regional air quality is generally quite middling, on account of exhaust from coal-fired midwestern power plants drifting our way on the prevailing winds. However, my impression is that the difference between urban and rural air quality in this area is not particularly great, implying that pollution caused by local vehicles is not the main culprit here.


"Big Dig" was the nickname given to a road/tunnel project which took far too long to complete and cost way too much money. In the time that it took to complete, they used lots of heavy diesel equipment that spewed lots of nasty stuff into the air.



Check “big dig” at Wikipedia and do not bother us here with such a question.


More smoke & mirrors with less smoke. The power plants are too expensive to clean up, so they go after something we see every day -school buses. A state study here in Connecticut has determined that most of the local PM (smoke) comes from home heating oil & wood burning. Hope you feel better knowing your dirty air is not locally generated....


Excellent news, but the program should be federalized and expanded to include an effective particulate filter for all diesels of size. Linking the program to contractors doing business with the state is a start. What we need to see is a diesel retrofit mandate tied to re-registration of all on-road diesel engines, and an organized mandate of the same for all off-road engines tied to insurance renewal. Other than for the MBTA and for existing long-term state contracts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shouldn't be subsidizing, it should be mandating.


It seems you're getting a little self-important Andrey. Given your previous posts, I could equally ask you look up climate change at Wikipedia.



Personal edginess aside, I have to mention that Wikipedia is not perfect reference on some subjects. Most one-sided is, as you noticed, climate change coverage, but plenty of other themes are influenced by “political correctness” to the degree of clear misinformation. Nature of Islamic religion and life of Mohammed, medieval Inquisition and Jesuit institutions, history of pirate and rapist Pope Johan XXIII, etc.

So do not switch off your personal common cense judgment when you read this open source reference.

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