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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

CALIDOT Workstation Table Buy America Waiver Request

Caltrans and IDOT Workstation Tables

Action: Notice, Request for Comments

Web posting date: December 31, 2020

Close of Comment Period: January 15, 2021 

Summary: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is seeking comments on whether to grant a waiver of the Buy America requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 22905(a)(1) to permit the California and Illinois Departments of Transportation (Caltrans and IDOT, respectively) to purchase up to 440 non-domestically manufactured workstation tables for use in its single-level passenger railcars replacement project (Project). The public will have 15 days to provide comments during this initial period. If FRA grants the waiver, the decision will be published in the Federal Register and FRA will provide another 5-day comment period prior to the waiver becoming effective. 

FRA may grant an FRA Buy America waiver only when one of the following exceptions of 49 U.S.C. § 22905(a)(2) has been met: (1) applying FRA’s Buy America requirement would be inconsistent with the public interest; (2) the steel, iron, and goods produced in the United States are not produced in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or are not of a satisfactory quality; (3) rolling stock or power train equipment cannot be bought and delivered in the United States within a reasonable time; or (4) including domestic material will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25 percent.

Background on the Project: Caltrans and IDOT received five grants from FRA to purchase equipment for their single-level passenger railcars replacement project. Caltrans and IDOT contracted with Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA) to supply 137 single-level passenger cars (consisting of coaches, café/galley, and cab cars) for the Project. The Project will allow Caltrans and IDOT to replace existing railcars that are at the end of their useful life, and therefore unreliable. The total cost of the Project is $370,709,692.31.

The railcars will contain 600 total workstation tables. Siemens USA (Siemens) is SCOA’s contractor for design, manufacturing, and delivery of the rolling stock. FRA’s grant agreement requires the single-level cars to comply with the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), 305-003 Rev A Single Level Passenger Car Technical Specification (PRIIA Specification).

Need for non-domestic workstation tables: Several domestic workstation tables were tested in simulated conditions; however, when configured for use in Siemens’s cars, they were unable to demonstrate compliance with the PRIIA Specification. Therefore, no domestic table is compliant with the PRIIA Specification.

As a result, Siemens contracted with Baker Bellfield, a company based in the United Kingdom, whose tables meet the PRIIA Specification. To comply with FRA’s Buy America requirements, under its contract with Siemens, Baker Bellfield planned to establish a manufacturing facility near the Siemens facility in Sacramento, CA.  Baker Bellfield signed a lease and was taking the necessary steps to establish the facility, but the COVID-19 public health emergency prevented the company from completing its move according to schedule. The company specifically cites the restrictions on European travelers entering the United States, which have been in effect since March 13, 2020, but also references general workplace restrictions in California and supply chain disruptions.

According to Caltrans and IDOT, granting this waiver allows the production process to continue, and allows the completed railcars to enter revenue service on schedule.  The railcars cannot enter revenue service unless they are complaint with the PRIIA specification. Without a waiver, Siemens would halt production of the railcars once its onsite storage capacity is reached. The corresponding delay from suspension of production will result in increased costs, which will be borne by Caltrans and IDOT. The costs will include extending the lease of the existing fleet, as well as the costs Caltrans and IDOT will incur from storage of the new rolling stock. The costs are not accounted for in the total project cost and will require the States to shift funds within their rail transportation budgets. 

Caltrans and IDOT have, therefore, requested a “non-availability” Buy America waiver under 49 U.S.C. § 22905(a)(2)(B) for up to 440 workstation tables that are not compliant with the PRIIA Specification. The non-domestic tables would constitute approximately 73 percent of the total tables. Caltrans and IDOT initially requested a waiver for up to 238 workstation tables; however, they subsequently revised the request for up to 440 tables. This proportion is based on Siemens’ estimation that it will complete localization by October 2021.

Caltrans and IDOT’s letter is available here. The letter contains confidential business information, including sensitive procurement information such as prices, and FRA has redacted these portions of the letter.

FRA seeks comments on whether a waiver of the Buy America requirements under 49 U.S.C. § 22905(a)(1), specifically that the goods that Caltrans and IDOT propose to acquire are not “…not produced in a sufficient and reasonably available amount or are not of a satisfactory quality,” 49 U.S.C. § 22905(a)(2)(B), should be granted to Caltrans and IDOT for up to 440 workstation tables that are not compliant with the PRIIA Specification.  In addition to comments on the availability of compliant products, FRA seeks comments on whether Caltrans and IDOT, given their circumstances, have taken sufficient actions to maximize their use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.

FRA will consider all comments received in the initial 15-day comment period during the final evaluation of the waiver request. Comments on this waiver request should be submitted to FRABuyAmerica@dot.govComments received after this period, but before any FRA decision is published in the Federal Register will be considered, to the extent practicable. FRA will review any comments received during the 5-day comment period after notice of any FRA decision is published in the Federal Register. These comments may influence an FRA decision to terminate or modify a finding in its decision, but the decision will be effective after the 5-day comment period.

General questions about this web notice or FRA’s Buy America requirements may be directed to