The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) is leading a unique public-private partnership that will lead to the construction of at least 13 hydrogen, electric, and compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling facilities along highways in Ohio and Southern Michigan.
As a first step in the process, the SARTA-led consortium recently applied for a multi-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. If approved, the grant will provide the funds needed to take the project from an exciting vision shared by a variety of companies and agencies to a job-creating, pollution-reducing reality within five years.
According to SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad, the consortium members, including Love's Travel Stops, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, CALSTART, Clean Fuels Ohio, Cleveland State University, and the Ohio Fuel Cell Coalition, will use the grant money to draft the Midwest States Alternative Fuel Transportation Corridor Action Plan. When completed, the plan will facilitate the creation of a corridor that will make it possible for the owners and operators of electric, fuel-cell electric, and CNG-powered automobiles, trucks, and buses to easily refuel as they travel across the major transportation arteries in Ohio and Michigan.
"Both commercial carriers and private individuals are reluctant to buy alternative fuel-powered vehicles because they aren't sure they'll be able to recharge or refuel them once they're on the road," Conrad explained. "Creating the corridor we envision will relieve that anxiety and ignite sales, which in turn will drive the creation of as many as 65,000 good-paying alternative fuel-related jobs in Ohio alone."
Love Travel Stops' involvement is key to the grant proposal and the long-range success of the project. If the grant application is approved, the privately-owned company, which operates more than 450 truck stops and convenience stores located along rural and urban highways in 41 states, will begin the design and planning process needed to add a mix of refueling and recharging technologies to its facilities along I-71, I-75, and I-80 in Ohio and Southern Michigan.
Conrad said the hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in R&D by General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Ford, and other vehicle producers clearly indicate that electricity and CNG are the fuels of the future.
"The only remaining barrier to massive growth in the hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle sector is the lack of refueling infrastructure. Once that barrier is overcome, a wave of change is going to wash across the transportation industry that will rival the transition from the horse and buggy to the automobile. Our goal is to ensure that Ohio is positioned to ride that wave for decades to come," he said.