Mesa County may buy buses that run on natural gas

A committee recommended that Mesa County purchase two buses that run on compressed natural gas for Grand Valley Transit, an initial step that likely will lead to the conversion of the agency’s entire fleet.

The Grand Valley Regional Transportation Committee unanimously agreed this week that the county should buy two buses that run on CNG rather than diesel. County commissioners are expected to decide next month whether to move ahead with the purchase.

“The message I’ve been getting from the committee is to lead the way and make the transition to CNG vehicles,” said Steve Acquafresca, a Mesa County commissioner and a member of the committee. “We want other public entities to follow, and we want the private sector to follow.”

The CNG buses cost a total of $780,000, about $80,000 more than diesel buses would. A federal grant would cover 80 percent of the price, with the remaining 20 percent, about $156,000, coming from the county. The buses wouldn’t arrive for 18 months to two years, according to Todd Hollenbeck, manager of the Regional Transportation Planning Office, which oversees GVT’s operations.

Should commissioners approve buying the two CNG buses, GVT would look to gradually replace its fleet of 25 diesel buses with CNG buses, Hollenbeck said. He said it’s not cost-effective to retrofit the diesel buses.

The purchase of the CNG buses would come on the heels of the city of Grand Junction’s decision to buy four trash trucks that run on CNG. Those trucks should arrive this fall.

City officials also will build a slow-fill CNG station at the city shops off West Avenue. Both city trash trucks and GVT buses will be able to fuel up there.

Local government leaders have spent several months exploring the possibility of eventually converting their vehicle fleets to CNG vehicles, citing the advantage of operating vehicles on a cleaner-burning resource produced in western Colorado. Natural gas also is less expensive than diesel.

At current prices, local governments would pay about $1.35 for an equivalent gallon of CNG, compared to $2.45 a gallon for diesel.


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