April 20, 2012

U.S. DOT issues $551M RFPs for American-made railcars

Railcar manufacturers across the country will have an opportunity to submit bids to produce the first American-made, standardized passenger railcars.

The $551 million Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 130 new bi-level passenger railcars in the U.S. comes from a multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on Amtrak’s intercity routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and potentially Iowa. The funding is being provided by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program.

In preparation for orders such as this, the U.S. Department of Transportation has partnered with the Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to connect large car builders and more than 34,000 domestic suppliers, and help them retool their production capabilities to meet demand. The MEP connects suppliers with viable business opportunities that may have otherwise gone to foreign suppliers.

The Buy America provision of the RFP requires that all components of the new bi-level cars are built by American workers: with American hands, and with American-produced steel, iron and manufactured goods. The federal government’s investment in passenger rail means more jobs for American workers and domestic companies.

The new uniform standards will drive down lifecycle costs and allow more manufacturers and suppliers to compete, fostering a healthy competition while helping re-establish the U.S. domestic supply chain for passenger rail equipment and meet Buy America goals. The common design also makes it easier to train personnel, stock parts, and perform maintenance and repairs, which also reduces costs and increases equipment reliability.

These state-of-the-art cars will be able to operate nationwide, providing a more comfortable travel experience, and are designed with improved crashworthiness and other safety features to ensure passenger safety. The cars will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Selection of the manufacturer will occur in the Fall of 2012. The cars will be delivered starting in 2015.

The effort to purchase standardized equipment is led by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act Section 305 Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee, comprised of representatives of interested states, the FRA, Amtrak, host freight railroad companies, passenger railroad equipment manufacturers and suppliers, and other passenger railroad operators.  The Committee has also completed specifications for high-performance diesel locomotives that can travel up to 125 miles-per-hour and for single level passenger railcars.  

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