State Asks FRA For Flexibility on Buy America Rules — But Only For Prototypes
Currently there are no makers of high speed trains in the United States. Companies like Siemens have US-based facilities, but do not currently build bullet trains there. That presents a paradox to the California High Speed Rail Authority, since federal “Buy America” rules currently prevent them from buying prototype trains abroad to test in this country – even if the plan is to ultimately build those trains here.
So California is seeking a waiver from the “Buy America” rules, but only for those prototypes:
So in late February, the state rail agency and Amtrak each requested a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration asking to be excused from the Buy America requirements. Each wants permission to purchase two prototype trains that are built overseas, but to American specifications, for testing purposes until the chosen manufacturer can build a production factory — or modify an existing plant — in the U.S. to build the trains….
California’s rail authority “decided to apply for a waiver in the event that the manufacturer that made the best offer wouldn’t have the ability to assemble a prototype in America that meets the Authority’s and Amtrak’s strict schedules for procurement,” said Lisa Marie Alley, the agency’s press secretary.
That is a sensible approach. The Authority wants to comply with the Buy America rules when they actually order the trains that the system will use. But if there are no US-based manufacturers at this time, it is reasonable to allow them to purchase those prototypes overseas. After all, the winning builder will open up a new factory, or a new production line at an existing factory, in the US that will employ a lot of people here. And that’s the entire point of the Buy America rules.
The FRA ought to grant this reasonable waiver, as doing so actually serves the goals of the Buy America program.