CNG station up for review

CITY HALL — The City Council is expected to give the go-ahead Tuesday to a new 19,000-square-foot compressed natural gas fueling station, more than two years after Glendale lost its only other station to a major highway project.

The facility, to be built on the 1700 block of Gardena Avenue next to the Glendale Amtrak/Metrolink Transportation Center, is expected to save the city tens of thousands of dollars a year in fueling costs for a growing fleet of municipal compressed-natural-gas-powered vehicles, including buses, refuse trucks and street sweepers.

Most of those vehicles have been traveling the roughly five-mile round trip to a natural gas fueling station in Burbank ever since Glendale lost its own facility to the multimillion-dollar Fairmont Avenue flyover extension project off the Ventura (134) Freeway in 2006.

The City Council entered into a $211,000 contract with Clean Energy — the only California-based private natural gas fuel provider — in September to build a private turnkey operation on Gardena Avenue, much to the joy of local environmentalists and city officials keen on cutting down on miles and wear and tear.

“We’ll save time on our operators, and we’ll also save wear and tear by keeping our vehicles off the road more,” said Councilman Ara Najarian, who serves as vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which kicked in about $1 million for the project.

Under the agreement, Clean Energy would foot the majority of the bill for construction and maintenance of the public facility for up to 20 years. During that time, Glendale would get a preferred fuel rate and small per-gallon surcharge.

The private operation could end up saving the city even more money as it expands its CNG-powered fleet of municipal vehicles in order to comply with stricter air quality mandates.

South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations largely restrict new municipal fleet purchases in swaths of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties to natural-gas-powered vehicles as a way to cut down on the diesel exhaust that accounts for about 70% of the region’s air pollution, according to the agency.

While natural gas is not entirely pollutant-free, it does burn significantly cleaner, and has a more readily available infrastructure compared with other alternative fuels, officials said.

Clean Energy has built 44 natural gas fueling stations in California, and owns or supplies fuel to more than 165 similar stations throughout the nation.

On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to sign off on special allowances for reduced parking and a permit to construct a fueling station within the San Fernando Road Corridor Redevelopment Area, along with minor exceptions for landscaping and storage.

If the project proposal clears the hearing, construction on the station is scheduled to begin this summer in time for a grand opening in November.

The facility is not expected to add significantly to the hustle and bustle of the Transportation Center, according to a city report.

CNG-powered vehicles are typically less noisy than their diesel counterparts, but some residents living in near multifamily housing complexes weren’t sold on the proposed facility.

“I use the buses over there, and at certain times of the day, it’s super busy,” said Maria Rodriguez, a college student who is living with her sister at the nearby Metro Loma apartment building. “I think it’ll make it busier, but we already live next to a train station, so as far as noise goes, not a whole lot can compete with that.”

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