BART board approves contract for 410 new train cars
OAKLAND, May 10, 2012 (Menafn - The Oakland Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --BART's board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to buy 410 new train cars for 896.3 million from a Canadian firm, over objections that not enough of the contract will be fulfilled by U.S. workers and suppliers.
This marks the first time in 40 years that the Bay Area Rapid Transit district is buying vehicles with entirely new technology, without needing them to be compatible with an older fleet. The board is expected to buy more cars from Canada-based Bombardier later on, for a total of 775 cars at a total cost of 1.54 billion.
BART officials expect the first 60 new cars will be in service by 2017, in time for the opening of a new rail extension to San Jose.
Bombardier says at least two-thirds of its contract will be fulfilled with American content. Alstom, a French firm, had offered 95 percent U.S. content but at a 1.73 billion price tag. Rotem, a South Korean firm, had offered 70 percent U.S. content but at a 2.79 billion price tag.
Some Bay Area political leaders, including Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, had urged the board to seek revised bids to maximize American content. But BART staffers told the board last month and reiterated Thursday that rejecting these bids would mean going back to the drawing board -- a delay of at least 18 months, with added costs and the potential to lose federal funding.
District 1 Director Gail Murray said BART received sealed, good-faith bids, and there should be
no do-overs if "they didn't do their best the first time." Spending more to create more jobs elsewhere in the United States isn't fair to riders and taxpayers, she said.
"Should we have a fare increase? Should we go out for a property-tax increase? Should we not have any money for our union negotiations next year?" Murray asked. "This money doesn't come out of the sky, we don't have it."
But Board President John McPartland said if BART were to ask for one more round of best, final offers and Bombardier were to successfully challenge that in court, "we're no farther away than we are right now." Only another round will bring hope of lower prices and-or more U.S. jobs, he said: "He who ventures wins."
District 8 Director James Fang moved that the board wait another 11 weeks for another found of final offers from the bidders. But only he and McPartland voted for it, with District 7 Director Lynette Sweet abstaining. The board then voted unanimously to accept Bombardier's bid.
"We're greatly honored to be selected by BART to build the fleet of the future," Robert Furniss, Bombardier's vice president of business development and sales, told reporters after the vote.
Furniss noted Bombardier has been using U.S. workers and supply lines for 30 years, and has "a tradition and trend" of increasing the U.S. content of its contracts as work progresses; 66 percent is a floor, not a ceiling, he said.
BART first took bids from five companies in June 2010, and after examining those bids, invited three of those companies to meet with the district's staff. The three companies were then invited in December to present best and final offers under a "Buy America" preference system for scoring bids in part by how much content would be produced domestically.
Richard Wieczorek, BART's procurement manager, noted Thursday that the Federal Transit Administration frowns upon making multiple requests for best and final offers.
Those final offers were received Feb. 28. Although Bombardier proposed the least domestic content, at 66 percent, it started at a price so much lower than the other companies and scored higher in a technical review that it still finished with the best score. In fact, BART staffers reported to the board last month that Bombardier's total proposal price of 1.54 billion is 25 percent below the in-house engineer's 2.06 billion estimate.
Many speakers Thursday urged the board to ask Bombardier and Alstom for another round of best and final offers to maximize the potential for creating or maintaining U.S. jobs.
"Cheaper is not always better," said Richmond Councilman Courtland "Corky" Booze.
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin went even further, asking the board to ensure the new cars are assembled here in the Bay Area: "I believe you have an obligation to help stimulate the local economy."
James Beno, directing business representative for an Oakland-based International Association of Machinists union lodge, urged the board to "take a few months to let this go back out to your best bidders." Representatives from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Courage Campaign said they've gathered thousands of petition signatures from BART riders and taxpayers urging the same.
But many speakers from the business community urged the board to honor its own bid process, accept Bombardier's bid and move ahead without further delay.
"Take the best product at the lowest price, that your process has determined will serve the riders of the Bay Area," said Paul Junge, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's public policy director.
Josh Richman covers politics. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.
___ (c)2012 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) Visit The Oakland Tribune
(Oakland, Calif.) at www.insidebayarea.com Distributed by MCT Information
Copyright (C) 2012, The Oakland Tribune, Calif.