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Riverhead unveils propane school buses

Riverhead unveiled new propane school buses Friday. (Feb.

Riverhead unveiled new propane school buses Friday. (Feb. 18, 2011) Credit: Lisa Finn

With an eye toward savings and a greener tomorrow, the Riverhead Central School District on Friday unveiled a pair of new Blue Bird propane-fueled school buses.

The district said it’s the first district on Long Island to introduce the vehicles to its fleet. The buses began shuttling students on Monday.

The district also acquired two new, traditional diesel-powered buses as part of its seven-year bus purchase replacement plan. According to school district Transportation Director Amala Cain, the goal is to compare the diesel and propane models side by side throughout the year, noting cost, maintenance and performance.

According to mechanic Kevin Davis, savings could prove significant. Although propane-powered buses cost approximately $102,000 each, compared to $97,000 for standard diesel models, filling the tank has already been wallet-friendly, with propane currently selling for $2.35 per gallon, as opposed to diesel at $3.03 a gallon.

“It takes 60 gallons to fill the tank, and you’re saving 70 cents a gallon,” said Davis.

Other features of the new models include a reduction in toxic idling emissions and other cost-saving components, including a longer period between oil changes. Studies by the Department of Energy indicate the low carbon and reduced oil contamination of propane equal a documented engine life of up to two times that of gasoline engines.

Propane in vehicles, said mechanic Steve Santoro, has “been around since the '90s,” and is considered the “green” alternative.

“Propane doesn’t go bad,” he added. “It has unlimited storage potential.”

Purchase of the new buses was part of the seven-year replacement plan approved by residents in 2008; there is no additional impact to taxpayers.

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