Second place finisher puts up fight to build BART cars

Second place finisher puts up fight to build BART cars

April 26, 2012 6:53:30 PM PDT
In the multi-billion dollar bidding process to build new BART cars the second place finisher is putting up a fight.

Outside the BART board room, union workers held signs. Inside, BART's staff made its recommendation.

"Of the three proposals Bombardier had the highest combined score," said BARTs procurement manager Richard Wieczorek.

He told the board that after 47 months of analysis, the Canadian company, Bombardier, had the lowest bid and the highest reliability.

"And according to the terms of the request for proposal, an award can only be made to the proposer with the highest combined score," said Wieczorek.

But Bombardier didn't come close to matching the French company's pledge to build the new cars in the United States. Bombardier said 66 percent of every car would be built with U.S. parts and labor, but the French company pledged 95 percent -- meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars would stay in the U.S. rather than go to manufacturing jobs somewhere else.

The president of Alstom, Guillaume Mehlman, told the board they've got a big decision to make.

"Sent jobs and taxpayer dollars to low cost countries that undercut American workers or use every possible investment dollar to create thousands of high quality Americans jobs," said Mehlman.

Alstom's president promised to lower his company's bid. Union machinists asked the board to reconsider. However, when board member Gail Murray asked if the board could reopen negotiations, BART's attorney was unequivocal. He said, "I'd be happy to write to the board about this, but I do not believe that the district is able to do that."

According to BART's legal counsel, the best and final offers have already been made. The only alternative now was to award the contract to Bombardier or start the process all over.

A lawyer for the French company argued with that interpretation of the law, but at least four board members seemed ready to side with Bombardier, which led to this unusual plea from board member James Fang to Alstrom's attorney.

"If you think you have legal recourse to give BART a better deal, please try to employ that so that BART gets a better deal," said Fang.

Fang was pleading with the Alstom attorney to bring some sort of legal action. Other than Fang and Lynette Sweet, there weren't any other board members willing to openly challenge the staff recommendation. The staff is due to vote on May 10.

Alstom's president says he's still considering what to do.


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