Schoharie County probably has some of the cleanest air in upstate New York, and it should stay that way, thanks in part to the diligence of Public Works Commissioner Daniel Crandell.
As a story in Thursday’s Gazette detailed, Crandell just lined up a $700,000 federal grant to buy six new hybrid electric cars and three new clean-diesel dump truck/plows. The county will have to chip in roughly $175,000 of the total $876,000 purchase price, but that’s a small price to pay for the air quality improvement and fuel savings these vehicles will provide. (One of the vehicles being replaced is a Dodge Durango, which uses roughly four times more energy than a Chevy Volt, while the county’s dirty-diesel dump trucks are 40 years old.)
It’s too bad that the federal grant program that subsidized the vehicle purchase has expired. Certainly there are some Capital Region cities (like Albany and Schenectady) with more serious air quality issues than Schoharie that could benefit from hybrid cars and clean-diesel technology. (Schoharie qualified for the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement grants because it’s part of state Department of Transportation Region 9, which includes Binghamton.)
Another grant available through the program helped cities with traffic tie-ups (another source of air-quality problems) caused by traffic lights that aren’t properly synchronized. When motorists maintain a relatively constant speed, they should be able to progress through several intersections without getting stuck at light after light (as they typically do when traveling along Brandywine Avenue in Schenectady, just north of I-890).
The program is currently out of money, but the federal government should re-authorize it to encourage municipalities and individuals to buy fuel-efficient, clean cars and trucks through grants and tax incentives, and to invest in programs that help cities reduce fuel consumption, traffic congestion and air pollution.