AUBURN — Frozen air lines and diesel fuel forced the Twin Cities’ Citylink bus service to shut down for several hours Tuesday.

Marsha Bennett, transit coordinator for the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, said several buses went out of service between 6 and 8 a.m. Tuesday.

“It was slowly collapsing all morning,” Bennett said. “We tried running, but everything started freezing up.”

Lewiston announced buses were back on the road with limited service at 11:15 a.m. That would be enough to run Saturday levels of service on six of the system’s seven routes: Auburn Mall, College Street should run every hour and Sabattus, Main, Lisbon streets and New Auburn routes will be on a two-hour schedule.

“And if they get another bus up and running, Lewiston and New Auburn will go back to hour service,” she said.

Bennett said the Citylink systems depends on having at least seven buses out of its 11-bus fleet operating to stay on schedule. Currently, five buses are out for repairs — two are at shops outside of Lewiston-Auburn, a third is waiting for parts and a fourth is awaiting regular maintenance.

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“A fifth bus wouldn’t even start Tuesday morning,” Bennett said.

The system began operating with six buses, but the below-zero temperatures caused problems.

“We had a little bit of everything,” she said. “One bus, the air line started freezing and that affected the brake system. And then the diesel was starting to gel up. They needed a warm place to thaw out. One by one, they started going down. We can run service at Saturday levels with four buses, but once we go below four, there’s no point in running at all.”

Citylink’s buses are normally stored outside, but Bennett said operators at Western Maine Transit Services are moving some of the buses inside to keep them warm.

The Lewiston-Auburn system was Maine’s only major system affected by Tuesday’s arctic temperatures. Neither Bangor’s Community Connector system nor Portland’s Metro system had delays due to the cold.

Laurie Linscott, interim bus coordinator for Bangor’s system, said she has an indoor facility that can hold 10 buses and keep them warm.

“The rest are equipped with heaters that keep the diesel from gelling,” Linscott said. “We haven’t had a gelling problem in years.”

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