Three companies bid on the deal to build 775 new BART cars. The three companies -- a Canadian company, a French company and a South Korean company -- all have factories in the U.S., but there was a pretty big difference in price and in the percentage of the parts that would come from the U.S.
As a BART film shows, back in the early 70s, the cars were portrayed as futuristic marvels of technology. But 40 years later, these are the oldest cars still in use in the United States and BART wants to replace all of them with 775 brand new cars over the next 11 years.
The winning bid came from the Canadian company, Bombardier Inc., at $1,543,192,904. The French company, Alstom, came in second with a bid of $1,727,025,189, and the Korean company wasn't even close, they overbid by $1 billion.
"Bombardier rail cars are built in America and their bid was $184 million lower than the next bidder," said BART general manager Grace Crunican.
But while the French bid was $184 million more, it also promised to use more U.S. parts. The French company pledged 95 percent of every car would be made in the USA.
Congressman John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, pushed for making the cars in America. A website supported by the machinist union, supported that message, and radio ads started playing in the Bay Area.
Unions complained that steel from China was building the Bay Bridge and that tax payer dollars should be spent in the U.S. But BART's staffers said the make it in America factor wasn't enough to award the contract to Alstom.
"At some point, it's not just where it's made, but it's the quality of the product," said Crunican.
"Certainly, we understand the importance of buy America we understand the importance of American jobs, we factored that into the evaluation process, but we also had to look at the larger picture which included reliability and price," said BART assistant general manager Paul Oversier.
The BART staff thinks Bombardier cars are more reliable, but they had some problems with Chinese-made parts on Bombardier cars in Chicago. Nevertheless, the BART managers will make their recommendation to the BART Board of Directors this Thursday.