Thursday, April 19, 2012

BART declares "Buy America" intention

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Faced with the need to replace what one official calls the oldest rapid transit cars "currently running in the country," BART is readying a $3.2 billion order for 775 new cars which it hopes will be built and assembled in the U.S.

BART anticipates selecting a supplier shortly, and hopes to have new equipment arriving on the property for revenue service beginning in 2017.

BART has published survey results of customer desires for the new equipment, and based on that feedback, says the new fleet will have several improvements and changes, including: 50% more doors to make getting on and off faster and easier; more priority seating for seniors and people with disabilities; bike racks to better accommodate bicyclists during hours when bikes are permitted on BART; energy efficiency LED lighting and state-of-the-art propulsion; interior digital displays showing the next stop and other passenger information; exterior digital displays showing route color and the train's destination; an improved public address (PA) system, including automated announcements; and improved on-board security cameras.

"We are instituting a 'Buy American' policy so that we can help put America back to work," says BART Board President John McPartland. The move would make BART eligible for federal funding assistance.

The declaration, however, is not without problems; three of the potential suppliers for BART's orders are considered foreign companies, though all three have assembly plants in the eastern U.S. Any contract may depend on the percentage of U.S. parts or supplies incorporated into a new car. Critics, however, say such a move could drive up the cost of any order.

"If somebody offers us more than 60%, in terms of domestic components, we can give them a bid preference in recognition of the fact that they may be spending more money to buy those U.S. components," says Dick Wieczorek, head of BART'S procurement department.