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Fort Smith, Ark., Buys Natural Gas Fueling Station for Fleet

The city of Fort Smith is working to install a nearly $2 million compressed natural gas fueling station to refuel its trash trucks. Natural gas is better for the environment and costs less than gasoline or diesel.

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(TNS) — The city of Fort Smith is working to install a fueling station that will use alternative fuel to power its trash trucks.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman said he hopes to have the station, which uses compressed natural gas, working by the beginning of next year. The project has been delayed by struggles to get materials.

The fueling station costs $1.8 million and the city is spending $373,000 to update its maintenance shop and equip the shop to work on compressed natural gas vehicles.

Compressed natural gas is better for the environment and also costs less than gasoline or diesel — about $1 per gallon.

"There's been a push for a number of years to try to do something with alternative vehicles for the city's fleet overall," Dingman said.

In the future, he would like to see all of the city's trash trucks run on compressed natural gas. The city does not have any trash trucks that use compressed natural gas.

Officials are waiting to see if the city will receive a federal grant that would partially pay for up to 14 trash trucks.

The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant pays entities to switch from using diesel to alternative fuels. The grant also requires the entity to destroy the diesel engine that the alternative fuels engine replaced.

The city was supposed to find out if it got the grant in May but has yet to hear is federal government awarded it the cash.

"We're still hopeful for the grant," Dingman said.

As of now, the city plans to replace the trash trucks incrementally.

"If we don't get the grant it'll just take longer to replace more of our fleet," Dingman said.

In the transit department, workers have been using a compressed natural gas fueling station since spring of 2020.

All but one of the city's transit vehicles have been converted to using compressed natural gas, Transit Director Ken Savage said. The Fort Smith trolley also does not run on compressed natural gas.

Each of the city's transit vehicles has a dual fuel system that allows drivers to use compressed natural gas or gasoline. These vehicles run for half the day on compressed natural gas and then switch over to gasoline after the compressed natural gas runs out.

Savage has put in an order for six buses that would run exclusively on compressed natural gas. He expects them to arrive in August 2022.

"We're really excited about that. That will be the time that we'll get to see the full benefit and savings on the investment that we've made," Savage said.

Most of the money for compressed natural gas projects in the transit department comes from the Federal Transit Authority, which paid for 90% of the funding for compressed natural gas programs.

©2021 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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