The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District near Kansas City celebrated the opening of a new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) public fill station at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce on June 6.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Kent Kirby of the Chamber of Commerce. Speakers included Dr. David McGehee, R-7 superintendent and Mo., representative Gary Cross.
The fill station has been open since Nov. 1 and is part of the district’s Lease Purchase Initiatives, a 10-year-project, which will save taxpayer dollars and create funding for technology that will benefit all district schools. The initiative is estimated to save R-7 a total of $28.3 million. The fill station also provides the school district with an additional source of revenue, as it will receive a royalty on retail sales of CNG.
The technology funding will be used to make $5 million in infrastructure purchases and upgrades. Some of the upgrades were made last summer.
The initiative includes a transition from regular diesel-powered school buses to ones powered by CNG. Linda Thompson, director of transportation for the school district said that Thomas Built Buses has indicated that this will be the largest transition to CNG-powered school buses in the nation. She added that there are currently 106 CNG buses in operation and a planned complete transition in the next two to three years. The CNG-powered buses represent a majority of the district’s 150-bus fleet, which includes 40-diesel-powered buses and four gasoline-powered buses.
“We are somewhat limited in the state of Missouri because of the (small) amount of fueling stations, and we sometimes travel throughout the state with our high school students, so we had to keep 40 diesel buses for that. We plan to transition as the infrastructure is built,” she added.
The R-7 fueling station is only one of two CNG fill stations on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area.
CNG-powered buses are fueled overnight using a “slow-fill” technique at individual docked fueling stations. In addition to being better for the environment than their diesel-powered counterparts, CNG-powered buses are also more cost-effective in terms of operation.
According to Thompson, the community response to the CNG-powered buses has been positive.
“We have a very prominent presence in the community. All of the kids are very aware of this project and the impact that it has on their health with fewer emissions out in the air. We’re seeing that the buses are quieter. The drivers really like that.”
In the next few years, Lee’s Summit R-7 will convert 149 buses, a refrigerator truck used for food delivery and 46 vehicles used by Facilities Services maintenance and custodial employees.