Indiana County Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Baker said it was the first time he ever had attended the dedication of a gas station.
“This is actually very futuristic and forward-looking,” Baker said at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for a compressed natural gas, or CNG, station on a 1.2-acre lot across Saltsburg Avenue from the Indiana County Transit Authority (IndiGO) headquarters in White Township.
It is the 14th of 29 stations being set up across the state in a public-private partnership between PennDOT and Trillium, a provider of renewable fuels and alternative fueling solutions.
“We look forward to their growing and having a successful existence,” said township Supervisor Gail McCauley, who was chosen by her colleagues to speak on White Township’s behalf. She hailed the township’s work with Trillium as “nothing but positive.”
“It’s incredible to see how much we’ve accomplished in bringing more CNG stations to transit authorities and drivers in Pennsylvania,” Trillium Managing Director Bill Cashmareck said in a company news release. “It’s great to see the hard work paying off.”
In turn, it is the fourth of six new CNG stations that will be open for public use, including light, medium and heavy trucks, as well as IndiGO’s growing fleet of vehicles tooled to use compressed natural gas.
Speakers said CNG is a more cost-effective and cleaner fuel than gasoline or diesel, available at $1.99 a gallon.
“We appreciate the blessing we have under our feet in Indiana County and western Pennsylvania,” Baker said.
Other CNG stations open already for public use in the Trillium-PennDOT partnership are located in the Johnstown, York and New Castle areas, with Erie and Lackawanna County locations coming later.
Trillium is designing, building, financing and will operate and maintain those CNG fueling stations through an $84.5 million statewide P3 project, including a $2.7 million investment in the IndiGO operation.
PennDOT CNG P3 project manager Scott Zeevaart said that, in turn, includes $400,000 in building modifications on both sides of Saltsburg Avenue to bring the entire operation up to township code compliance.
“Maintenance is no longer your concern until 2037,” Zeevaart told IndiGO Executive Director John Kanyan.
Trillium has provided alternative fuels for more than 20 years, operating more than 200 stations nationwide. In a “CNG 101” course Trillium Commercial Account Manager Candice Murray offered during a luncheon at the Rustic Lodge, she said her company provides 24/7 “rapid response” maintenance services.
“Things like this do not happen unless you have great leadership,” Indiana County Commissioner Rodney Ruddock said, recalling how PennDOT Deputy Secretary Toby Fauver “was really the catalyst for getting this station into Indiana County.”
Kanyan said the new CNG station continues a tradition for the Indiana County Transit Authority that dates to 1998, when Peoples Gas offered it the opportunity to have a CNG operation.
Peoples built the original CNG pumps in 2000 across Saltsburg Avenue from the new station, and had a contract to operate it for 12 years, but gave it up for $1 on May 8, 2003, after Dominion took over Peoples and said it would not honor that contract.
In November 2004, the authority obtained four natural gas-run buses from Berks Area Reading Transit Authority. Then-IndiGO Executive Director Gerald Blair said it was a good deal, as the local authority only had to buy out BARTA’s leases on tires for the buses at a cost of $3,500.
BARTA also donated a CNG station that Blair termed “better than the one we have” from Dominion Peoples.
“That served us until a few days ago,” Kanyan said Tuesday.
The current IndiGO director said there now are 13 CNG-run transit vehicles in Indiana County, out of 35 that range from minivans to full-sized buses.
Also, Kanyan said, “Four new (vehicles) are to be delivered in January, and one in April, so over half of our vehicles will be run by CNG. We would like to get to the point where we are 100 percent CNG.”
Ruddock said it will be an option for the trucks Urban Outfitters will send to the distribution facility it is building in Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park. He said he brought up the subject with Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne “and I’m sure that will be in the back of his mind.”
White Township Manager Milt Lady said his municipality expects to get one or two CNG-run vehicles, including a small pickup truck and a pool-type vehicle for township staff.
White Township also has a low-pressure CNG station it uses to fuel the Zamboni for the ice rink in S&T Bank Arena in the township recreation complex, but Lady said it takes “all night” to fuel that machine.
“On behalf of IndiGO I want to thank so many people who were involved in this project and continue to support IndiGO,” Kanyan said before ceremonial scissors were pulled out for a ribbon stretched between a pump to be used by the bus authority and one that will take credit cards.
Trillium is part of the Love’s family of companies, which also includes Oklahoma City, Okla.-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, a travel stop network with more than 470 locations in 41 states.
Its nearest travel stops to Indiana include Cumberland off Interstate 68 in Maryland, Zanesville off Interstate 70 in Ohio, and Hubbard off Interstate 80 in Ohio.