To improve Fairbanks air quality, 200 engine-heater plug-ins added to public buildings

Bret Moffet installs a frost plug heater at L and M Motors in Anchorage on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

Four public buildings around Fairbanks will offer more electrical outlets in their parking lots next year to encourage customers to plug-in their engine-block heaters during cold snaps. The project is intended to help improve the area’s air quality.

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State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the nearly 200 additional plug-ins will be installed next summer at the Carlson CenterBig Dipper Ice ArenaNoel Wien Public Library and North Pole Branch Library. She said the greater availability of plug-ins should help reduce the amount of time required to warm up a vehicle at those parking lots in cold weather.

“The goal is to reduce engine idle time for vehicles,” Bailey said. “And this of course we hope will result in lower vehicle emissions and improved air quality for our community.”

Bailey said a federal grant will pay for the $3.2 million-dollar project, which will be done in two phases.

“The Carlson Center would be one bid, and that would be $1.8 million,” Bailey said. “And the libraries and the Big Dipper would be a separate project and that would be approximately $1.4 million.”

Plans call for 66 new plug-ins to be installed at both the Carlson Center and Big Dipper, 40 at the Noel Wien Library and 25 at the North Pole Library.

Bailey said the project will include the installation of the new outlets and distribution panels and other work required to install the plug-ins.

“Those are mounted onto concrete posts,”Bailey said. “There’s also some Jersey Barriers to help protect the mounted electric plugs-ins. And there will be things like trenching, replacing of asphalt that will be required when you’re installing the new electrical wires. And then re-striping parking lots, so that (the parking spots) are actually in line with the plug-ins.”

Bailey said the project is being coordinated through the Federal Highway Administration.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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