Call for Washington Transit Authority’s 250 railcars to be made in America erupts

WASHINGTON – Thursday, the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) praised a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) call for American-made railcars in purchases by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

In a letter to WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams urged the agency to follow Buy America policies in its planned purchase of 250 new railcars. CPA fully supports Williams’ call, and believes that the WMATA should aim to purchase American-made railcars rather than cars from Chinese producer CRRC Corporation Limited.

“In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, and the nation’s factories are struggling, it’s inconceivable that a public agency would want to send hard-earned tax dollars to a state-subsidized manufacturer in China,” said Michael Stumo, CEO of the CPA. “U.S. companies play by the rules of global trade and they adhere to rigorous workplace and environmental standards. There is simply no reason to award a contract to a remote firm in China when U.S. manufacturers stand ready to complete such a project.”

In her letter, Williams notes that, in an effort to sidestep federal Buy America rules, the WMATA plans to use non-federal funds in its purchase of Chinese railcars. However, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 (NDAA) specially restricts purchases of rolling rail stock from certain non-market economies, including China, regardless of whether federal funds are involved. The WMATA received nearly $145 million in federal repair funds from the FTA this year. Violating the NDAA would mean WMATA forfeiting access to such funding in 2021.

CPA notes that previous large-scale public transit purchases from China have often proven costly for taxpayers. In 2011, for example, California chose to award the contract for a new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to a Chinese firm. That project eventually saw massive cost overruns, due in part to faulty and unsafe steel components. Additionally, CPA supports Buy America policies as a means to help maximize job creation and bolster domestic supply chains.

“We fully support the FTA’s criticism of WMATA,” said Stumo. “This is simply another instance where a municipal agency chooses short-term expedience over long-term foresight. You get what you pay for, and buying railcars from a strategic competitor like China doesn’t support U.S. jobs. But as recent history makes clear, it also doesn’t mean taxpayers will receive a safe or reliable product.”

CPA advocates a ‘Made in America 2030’ plan to rebuild economic and national security. Read more.