Laketran approves contract for propane infrastructure project

By Andrew Cass, The News-HeraldMonday, February 22, 2016

Laketran is moving ahead with plans for Dial-a-Ride buses fueled by propane.

The agency’s Board of Trustees approved a contract Feb. 22 with CT Consultants for the design/engineering/construction management of a propane infrastructure project.

The project’s work will include the construction of a propane fueling station outside of the Laketran garage as well as all infrastructure to support propane. It also includes repair of the concrete parking lot in the rear of the facility and repair of remaining concrete issues. The work is being done in three phases.

In mid-2015, Laketran learned that Chevy would no longer produce the diesel chassis it uses for its Dial-a-Ride buses. The agency replaces 12 of its 74 Dial-a-Ride buses annually.

With that news, Laketran began investigating three other types of fueling options: propane, compressed natural gas and gasoline.

Laketran Operation Manager Ben Capelle said at the December board meeting that the technology in propane-powered buses has changed in the past five years.

“Propane used to be bad for people in Northern climates like us, because the propane left the tank in the vehicle and when it went to the engine, it went as a gas,” Capelle said in December. “When it went as a gas, it could freeze or all sorts of strange things could happen between the fuel tank and the engine. Now, the fuel is delivered as a liquid all the way into the engine. It basically runs just like a gas engine.”

Capelle said at that meeting a propane bus costs $6,000 less to purchase than a diesel bus and Laketran currently spends $3,900 on diesel exhaust fluid each year, which is not required for propane. Maintenance for propane buses is also projected to be less expensive than other alternatives.

The switch to propane is expected to save Laketran about 35 percent on fuel for Dial-a-Ride buses.

CT Consultants’ work is not to exceed $163,200 over the three-year project.

The project will be 80 percent funded through current federal grant funds and 20 percent will be paid by local funds. The agency is continuing to seek additional grant funds through two current grant opportunities. Any funds resulting from those applications will offset any future funding needs for the project.

Work is expected to begin on the construction of the fueling station this summer and is projected to be completed in time for the arrival of new Dial-a-Ride buses in early 2017.

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