Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Streetsblog

Buy America’s Shocking Pricetag

10:53 AM EDT on May 8, 2012

Within the big pro-transit tent, positions on Buy America policies -- which compel agencies to purchase domestically-made materials -- vary wildly. But from the perspective of providing more rail service to more people, these restrictions are unequivocally bad news. How bad?

false

Network blog Systemic Failure recently looked at how the Federal Railroad Administration is about to spend a staggering sum to ensure that its new railcars are made with materials sourced from America. Rail in the United States will be worse for it:

The FRA is soliciting bids for a $551 million contract for 130 bi-level railcars. As a condition for the contract, the railcars must be manufactured entirely with American steel and components. If you do the math, that comes to 4.2 million dollars each – double the global market price for a bi-level car.

In other words, the FRA is pissing away a quarter billion dollars. Imagine all the projects that might have been done with $250 million. Imagine all the jobs that might have been created with that money. I’m talking real jobs — not bureaucrats enforcing Made-in-America rules. Jobs like installing new PTC signaling, repairing bridges, or expanding the transit network. You know, things that have tangible benefit to riders.

Sorry, but domestic passenger rail manufacturing is gone. And subsidizing obsolete FRA-compliant rolling stock isn’t the way to revitalize it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports on how the suburb of White Flint is making itself more walkable and sustainable. M-bike.org peeks in on Detroiters who are carfree by choice. And The Political Environment shares the disappointing news that US DOT has thrown its support behind the billion-dollar-plus Zoo Interchange in Wisconsin -- a boondoggle if there ever was one.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Underhill Ave. Still In Limbo Two Weeks After Mayor Promised Decision in ‘A Day Or So’

The mayor's perception of time differs from that of mere mortals, but he did say on Feb. 5 that he would decide "in a day or so." It's been two weeks.

February 21, 2024

Data Dive: More Delivery Workers are Registering Their Mopeds 

“If you have plates, [the police] won’t summons you,” Junior Pichardo told Streetsblog the other day on Flatbush Avenue. “They won’t bother you.” 

February 21, 2024

Why Your City Needs a Walkability Study

Two urbanism rockstars are joining forces to bring a game-changing analysis to more cities — and spilling some trade secrets about low-cost design strategies that get people moving.

February 21, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: No Times Like This Times Edition

Did the metro editors at the Times have drinks with their New York Post counterparts last week? Plus other news.

February 21, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: The Polk’s on Us Edition

Our investigative reporter Jesse Coburn won a Polk Award for his three-part, seven-month "Ghost Tags" investigation. Plus other news.

February 20, 2024
See all posts