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RTA agrees to lease diesel bus until CNG bus is fixed

Optimistic it will get fixed

by Mark Reaman

The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) is still dealing with problems with its compressed natural gas (CNG) bus. The bus, which has been in the valley since May, has not been able to operate without engine misfiring problems, so has not been used as part of the RTA fleet.

The engine manufacturer, Cummins, has sent engineers to help figure out the problem and while some potential problems have been ruled out, the bus is still not ready to carry passengers. As a result, the RTA board agreed to lease a diesel-powered bus from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) fleet for the start of the winter season until the CNG bus issues are resolved.

“We have all been working hard to figure this out and we are making improvements but have not found a permanent solution yet,” J.P. Frymoyer of Alpine Express told the RTA board at its November 10 meeting. Alpine Express manages the bus fleet. “It is still misfiring and mechanical issues can arise in its current condition. It needs to be right before going into service. Cummins is dedicated to make this right for us,” said Frymoyer.

“They are shocked that they are having problems with the fuel,” added Gunnison County facilities director John Cattles. “The engineers all say this fuel is as good as they’ve seen and they want to make it work with this gas. They are committed to fixing this. It definitely has their attention. They have a new CNG engine coming out in 2018 and they are bringing a test rig up here in December or January. They are committed to make sure they can use this fuel in the entire region that includes this part of Colorado and some of New Mexico. They know this situation is on them.”

“The CNG station in Gunnison is being used and the fuel is working for other vehicles,” noted RTA board member Jonathan Houck.

“The fuel from the pipeline is almost pure methane,” explained Cattles. “This is the first bus using fuel from this pipeline. It’s not the same fuel as they get on the I-70 or I-25 pipelines. It is very pure.”

Cattles explained that the CNG bus would be a major contributor to reducing greenhouse gases in the valley.

“It is so much more efficient. Using this one bus is like taking dozens of cars off the road every year. This bus can bring major benefits. Cummins knows this is a big deal and they will solve this,” he said.

In response to a question from board member Danny D’Aquila, RTA executive director Scott Truex said the first priority was to get the bus up and working and then figure out who will pay for all the work being done to get it operational. He said he would make sure the warranty on the bus is in effect.

“It gets better every time Cummins comes over, so I am optimistic,” said Truex. Cummins plans to return to perform work on the bus this week.

“If Cummins is using us to test their vehicles we shouldn’t be paying for it since it is not in service,” said RTA board chair Roland Mason.

In the meantime, the board agreed to spend up to $10,000 to lease the 2010 diesel motor coach from RFTA. Truex said RFTA had been very cooperative in helping the RTA during the CNG calamity.

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