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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Amtrak Buy America Maintenance Equipment Exemption Request

Amtrak Buy America Maintenance Equipment Exemption Request

Action: Notice, Request for Comments

Web posting date: April 2, 2020

Close of Comment Period: April 20, 2020

Summary

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is seeking comments on whether an exemption to the Buy America requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 24305(f) should be granted to permit the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to purchase the following non-domestic maintenance equipment for its state-of-good-repair (SOGR) program: one tunnel crane; one track laying machine; and eight two-man rail car movers.

FRA will only consider an Amtrak Buy America exemption when one of the exemptions of 49 U.S.C. § 24305(f)(4)(A) or (B) have been met.  This includes when the articles, material, or supplies, or the articles, material, or supplies from which they are manufactured, are not mined, produced, or manufactured in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available commercial quantities and are not of a satisfactory quality.

Background on Amtrak and its state-of-good-repair (SOGR) program: Amtrak is the Nation’s federally chartered intercity passenger rail operator and infrastructure provider. Among its infrastructure assets, Amtrak owns 1,169 track miles of infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which connects Washington, DC; Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY; and up to the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border. Amtrak provides the infrastructure for approximately 820,000 trips daily.

Amtrak is designing a program to achieve a state of good repair across infrastructure assets. Amtrak’s goal is to bring its infrastructure assets to a SOGR, meaning that its assets perform safely, as designed, within their estimated service lives.  Amtrak Engineering has assessed the SOGR backlog at $33.3 billion for infrastructure nationally. Amtrak’s infrastructure is divided into four categories: Track; Bridges and Buildings; Electric Traction; and Communications and Signals. The three components of track are rail, ties, and ballast. These components are integrated and if any are not in a SOGR, track geometry suffers, trains no longer travel at the desired speed, trip time is extended, and ride quality suffers. Each of these consequences negatively impacts revenue, ridership, and customer experience. Amtrak has set an aggressive 10-year schedule to eliminate the SOGR backlog. The equipment that is the subject of Amtrak’s exemption request, (one (1) Railbound Tunnel Crane, one (1) Track Laying Machine, and eight (8) Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers), will be used to repair and maintain Amtrak’s Track Infrastructure Asset.

Need for the tunnel crane, track laying machine, and two-man rail car movers and competitive process:

Tunnel Crane

New York Penn Station (PSNY) handles over 1,300 train moves carrying 350,000 people on Amtrak, New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit), and Long Island Railroad (LIRR) trains every day. The track structure consists of 87 turnouts, including 34 slip switches, each equivalent to four conventional turnouts, totaling 219 turnouts. It is Amtrak’s busiest station on the Northeast Corridor with 21 tracks fed by seven tunnels serving Amtrak, NJ Transit, and LIRR.

Currently, Amtrak is replacing turnouts in PSNY with a 1994-built crane which is well-tested under the extreme production requirements of PSNY; however, after 25 years its reliability has decreased significantly, and it lacks the remaining components of the system upon which Amtrak is relying to replace one turnout per 55-hour track possession.

In May 2019, Amtrak issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for one (1) Railbound Tunnel Crane. In accordance with Amtrak’s procurement process, the RFP was posted to the Procurement Portal on Amtrak’s website. In addition, Amtrak solicited four companies that participated in a request for information process for similar equipment in the past to participate in the acquisition event. Proposals were received from three offerors. One offeror declined to submit a proposal. Amtrak evaluated the proposals on compliance with the technical specifications, previous relevant and successful experience in providing similar supplies, pricing, and delivery. The Railbound Tunnel Crane consists of interrelated units that function as one complete system. The Amtrak Technical Evaluation Committee evaluated the three proposals in accordance with the terms of the RFP and concluded that only one offeror met the requirements of the specification. The sole successful offeror’s tunnel crane does not meet the Amtrak Buy America requirements. Because those requirements apply without regard to the source of funds, if FRA denies Amtrak’s request for an exemption, Amtrak cannot acquire the Railbound Tunnel Crane. Amtrak contends that not having the Railbound Tunnel Crane would have an adverse effect on the Penn Station Turnout Replacement System. Over the past 2 years, Amtrak has only been able to replace 20 of the 219 turnouts requiring forty-two 55-hour outages, impacting service to Amtrak, NJ Transit, and LIRR. The inability to replace more than 10 turnouts per year will increase the SOGR backlog, and prevent PSNY from ever achieving a SOGR.

Track Laying Machine

The new Track Laying Machine is required to address the NEC’s concrete tie condition. The NEC has three million concrete ties which are projected to have a 40 to 50-year life; one million Santa Fe San Vel concrete ties were installed between 1978 and 1982 and thus are on the verge of needing replacement.

Furthermore, during the 1990s Amtrak installed 1.4 million Rocla concrete ties which began failing at an accelerated rate in 2004, requiring replacement well before the end of the projected life cycle. Neither the San Vel replacement cycle nor the Rocla replacement can be achieved with the current equipment.

In August 2018, Amtrak issued a RFP for one (1) Track Laying Machine. In accordance with Amtrak’s procurement process, the RFP was posted to the Procurement Portal on Amtrak’s website. In addition, Amtrak solicited bids from three companies that were known to Amtrak and had previously supplied similar equipment to Amtrak to participate in the acquisition event.

Amtrak received proposals from two offerors including the proposed awardee. One offeror declined to submit a proposal. The proposals were evaluated on compliance to the technical specifications, previous relevant and successful experience in providing similar supplies, pricing, and delivery. After an initial technical review of the unsuccessful offeror’s proposal, Amtrak determined that it did not meet Amtrak’s technical specification. Amtrak initiated discussions with the offeror to delineate deficiencies in the proposal and requested that the offeror submit a revised proposal that met the specification requirements.

The Technical Evaluation Committee thoroughly evaluated the offeror’s revised proposal and the proposed awardee’s original proposal and determined that only the proposed awardee met the technical specification requirement. The sole successful offeror’s Track Laying Machine does not meet the Amtrak Buy America requirements. The nine passenger railroads that rely on NEC infrastructure to provide rail service to the public all have a vested interest in ensuring the infrastructure can meet current and future service needs. If FRA denies Amtrak’s request for an exemption, then Amtrak cannot acquire the Track Laying machine. Amtrak maintains that not having the Track Laying Machine will have adverse effects on Amtrak’s ability to reduce the SOGR backlog and ultimately, negatively impact service and the ability to grow ridership.

Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers

Amtrak’s market research concluded that one company was the sole manufacturer of the Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers, which is utilized extensively by freight railroads. In an effort to create competition, Amtrak prepared a bidders list that included the known manufacturer and twelve (12) other truck manufacturers to ascertain if any of these manufacturers had entered the market for the Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers.

In March 2018, Amtrak issued a RFP for twelve (12) different style of trucks that are required to maintain a SOGR which included the Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers. In order to ensure that there would be competition, Amtrak solicited thirteen (13) providers of a variety of trucks, which included the Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers, that were known to Amtrak and had previously supplied similar equipment to Amtrak to participate in the acquisition event.

Of the proposals Amtrak received, only two (2) offerors provided a proposal for the Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers. After a thorough technical review of the proposals, the Technical Evaluation Committee determined that only the known manufacturer’s offering met the technical specification requirement of a truck having 50,000lb tractive effort capability. The sole successful offeror’s Two-Man Rail Car Mover with Heavy Duty Crane, Railgear, and Rail Car Couplers does not meet the Amtrak Buy America requirements. If FRA denies Amtrak’s request for an exemption, then Amtrak cannot acquire the Car Movers. Amtrak contends that not having the Car Movers will prevent Amtrak from achieving a SOGR.

Before deciding whether to grant this exemption, FRA is requesting public comments at Docket ID: FRA-2012-0033, https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=FRA-2012-0033-0018. FRA seeks comments on whether an exemption of the Buy America requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 24305(f), specifically that the end products that Amtrak proposes to acquire are not “…manufactured in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available commercial quantities and are not of a satisfactory quality,” 49 U.S.C. § 24305(f)(4)(iii), should be granted to Amtrak for: (i) one tunnel crane; (ii) one track laying machine; and (iii) eight two-man rail car movers.  In addition to comments on the availability of compliant products, FRA seeks comments on whether Amtrak, given its circumstances, has taken sufficient actions to maximize its use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.

Amtrak’s exemption request letter to FRA is available here. Amtrak’s exemption request letter contains confidential business information, including sensitive procurement information, such as prices and other details that would identify the bidders. FRA has redacted these portions of the letter.

FRA will consider all comments received in the initial 15-day comment period during our evaluation of the exemption request.  Comments received after this period, but before notice of any finding is published in the Federal Register, will be considered to the extent practicable.  Follow-up coordination on the comments received may result in a delay in the publication of our exemption finding in the Federal Register.  Comments received during the 5-day comment period after notice of our finding is published in the Federal Register will be reviewed, but the finding will effective upon the completion of the 5-day comment period.  Comments received during the comment period may influence FRA decision to terminate or modify a finding.

General questions about this web notice or FRA’s Buy America requirements may be directed to FRABuyAmerica@dot.gov.

Last updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2020