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Bus manufacturer New Flyer announced yesterday that it had finalized a sales contract with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System for the purchase of between 47 and 165 new 60 foot-long, articulated Xcelsior buses.

The vehicles are set to run on compressed natural gas, as do 80 percent of the buses already in service in San Diego’s fleet. According to specs from New Flyer, the vehicles will have a range of 350-400 miles and can accommodate up to 59 seats and an additional 57 standing passengers. They will primarily service Bus Rapid Transit routes along I-15, I-805, and in the mid-city area.

“San Diego is one of the most progressive transit operators in America,” said Paul Soubry, New Flyer’s CEO and president, in a release. “We have built a lasting partnership over the last twenty years with New Flyer having manufactured approximately 90% of [the MTS] fleet of over 500 heavy-duty transit buses.”

The first 47 buses on the new contract (and the only ones guaranteed to be produced at this point) will be constructed at New Flyer’s St. Cloud, Minnesota facility and should go into service around the end of the year. Overall, MTS plans to purchase at least 85 units, with the extra 80 an option should the system realize increased ridership or expand routes. If the contract is fully realized, it could be worth $159.5 million, to be paid by the San Diego Association of Governments from a combination of federal and the half-cent TransNet tax extended by voters in 2004 for 40 years.

In addition to the New Flyer contract, MTS has received approval to purchase up to 350 standard-sized 40 foot buses from Hayward, California manufacturer Gillig. The contract includes 50 buses for 2013 and another 50 per year through 2017 to replace aging stock, for a total of 250 vehicles. Another 100 could be added to the order, which has a total potential value of $184 million. Funding for these units comes from a federal program that funds capital improvement programs of regional transit districts.

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