NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Connect Transit is preparing to take that next step towards the future with its electric buses.

The Normal Transit company recently received $15.8 million in federal grants and funding. Connect Transit received $13 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) bus grant program and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin secured $2.78 million in earmark funding.

The funding will help with the agency’s transition to electric vehicles. The goal is replace 22 buses with electric ones, which is half of the agency’s fleet, by 2024.

Leaders said this move is due to the current, aging diesel-fueled buses and it’s also a response to climate change and the need for healthier travel.

“The world’s changing, if you have your eyes open you can see it,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “We’re having extreme weather events we have never had in the history of our country.”

Durbin along with other Illinois leaders stopped by Connect Transit, Wednesday, to celebrate the funding and emphasize the push for more sustainable public transit.

“We’re bringing more buses to Bloomington-Normal because we know that we need to reduce our carbon footprint,” Congressman Eric Sorensen, said.

Connect Transit currently has four electric buses and those with the agency said eight more is expected later this year with an additional five coming at the end of the year. Connect Transit’s general manager said each electric bus saves about 7,000 gallons of diesel a year.

“The diesel fuel that we’re saving in public transit can then be used for commercial uses,” David Braun, Connect Transit’s General Manager, said.

Sorensen also said there’s a life-changing aspect to switching over to electric.

“We have too many children that are getting sick from pollution, this helps in that,” Sorensen said.

Other plans on the horizon for Connect Transit include a microgrid to capture and sustain renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy, to charge the buses.

The agency is also developing an on-site training center to support bus training efforts and later this year they’ll purchase smaller electric vehicles for their Microtransit services to allow public transportation for disadvantaged neighborhoods and the area’s growing senior population.

Those with the agency said they’ll look into replacing 22 more buses in 2028.