Concerns that not enough manufacturing jobs would be based in America did not stop BART’s board of directors on Thursday from approving a landmark contract to replace aging train cars.
Bombardier, a Canadian firm, was awarded a $1.5 billion deal to build 775 new trains for the oldest transit fleet in the country. With administrative, contingency and inflationary costs, the total price tag of the project — deemed by the agency as one of the most important in its history — will be $2.5 billion.
Alstom, a French firm that finished second in the bidding process, had been pleading with BART to reopen contract talks. Backed by labor groups, Alstom said it could lower its price — currently $184 million more than Bombardier’s — while maintaining a higher domestic workforce. Alstom would have 95 percent of its work located domestically, while Bombardier would have 66 percent — still above the federal benchmark of 60.
Despite the full-court press by labor groups, BART directors voted to support the Bombardier contract, which was recommended last month by the agency’s staff.
“The No. 2 bidder already made their business decision, and they decided to use that extra
$184 million and give it to their shareholders,” said BART Director Tom Radulovich. “My take is that we should go with the company that delivers our taxpayers the highest quality at the best price.”
The $184 million saved through the Bombardier contract would amount to 104 extra train cars, according to BART.
Furthermore, Matthew Burrows, BART’s legal counsel, repeatedly insisted to directors that the contract process could not legally be reopened just to the top two bidders.
Three members of BART’s board — President John McPartland and directors James Fang and Lynette Sweet — said they would be willing to risk legal recourse from Bombardier to reopen bidding in the hopes of getting a better price from Alstom. But that proposal was rejected in a 6-3 vote. A subsequent vote on the contract recommendation for Bombardier was approved unanimously.
Alstom representatives declined to comment on the decision. When asked if they would consider legal action, they also refused comment.
James Beno, a representative of the Machinists Automotive Trades union, an organization backing Alstom, said he was very disappointed that a taxpayer-backed initiative would be supporting jobs outsourced to other countries.
Robert Furniss, vice president of business and sales at Bombardier, called the contract approval a
“We take it with the utmost seriousness to meet all our commitments — to build a great car fleet, to deliver on schedule and to work with the BART team,” Furniss said.
Bombardier car-replacement project