Fairbanks Daily News Miner: Borough receives $2.5M for CNG bus conversion

A federal grant will fund the transition of using compressed natural gas as the fuel source for buses and vans

Almost $2.5 million was awarded to the Fairbanks North Star Borough from the Federal Transit Administration for Compressed Natural Gas buses and vans, according to a borough news release.

The funds come from the FTA’s bus and low-and-no-emission grant program as part of the overall Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Borough Mayor Bryce Ward called the grant “a massive step in the right direction” for the borough’s plans to swap out its public transit buses and vans with environmentally-friendly equivalents.

CNG fuel is considered an “eco-friendly” alternative to fossil fuels, according to the U.S Department of Transportation. Made by compressing methane, it is considered safer than gasoline and diesel because it is non-toxic and does not contaminate ground water.

USDOT cites CNG-powered vehicles as “good choices for high-mileage, centrally fueled fleets because they can provide similar fuel range support for applications,” provided they operate in a region with a CNG refueling station.

The Assembly in 2019 approved a resolution directing the borough to improve the Metropolitan Area Commuter System (MACS) transit system and “contribute to improved air quality in the community.”

“This grant award accelerates the conversion of our transit fleet to compressed natural gas,” Ward said in the news release. “I am pleased that everything is coming together in great timing with the buildout of the borough’s new transit facility, which is scheduled to be completed in May 2024.”

The borough was one of five Alaska communities to receive the grant and one of 150 overall recipients in 48 states and territories.

According to the borough, there are several “direct and indirect emission benefits associated” with converting to a CNG fleet from diesel or gasoline. A direct benefit means eliminating the annual use of more than 120,000 gallons of diesel and 17,800 gallons of gasoline.

An indirect benefit, according to the borough, will be the increased demand for CNG fuel in the Fairbanks market.

“The new CNG vehicles will revitalize the borough’s transit fleet and improve the borough’s fixed-route and on-demand transit system,” the borough stated.

Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called the grants awarded on Aug. 13 good news for the state.

“The communities that receive these grants will benefit from better transportation, less pollution and lower costs for their residents,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement. “I thank both FTA and DOT for considering Alaskans’ applications, and look forward to continued assistance for additional communities in the years ahead.”

The FTA grant isn’t the only one benefiting Fairbanks and the Interior.

Murkowksi announced Wednesday that the University of Alaska Fairbanks would receive nearly $10.4 million in combined funding for various environmental, educational and cultural-related projects, research and programs.

By:  Amanda Bohman
Source: Fairbanks Daily News Miner