U.S. Commerce Department, DOT Look To Encourage Domestic Rail Manufacturing

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank have announced a partnership intended to encourage the creation of domestic manufacturing jobs and opportunities for U.S. suppliers to the transportation industry.

The Commerce Department's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which aims to help American manufacturers retool their capabilities to meet demand and compete in the global marketplace, will assist them in meeting the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Buy America" and "Buy American" standards and finding work for railroad and other transportation projects.

"This initiative is a win for workers and communities across America," said Acting Secretary Blank. "The Manufacturing Extension Partnership will connect U.S. manufacturers and suppliers with hundreds of millions of dollars in upcoming highway, railway, and airport projects, providing new job opportunities in every corner of the country."

MEP, which has 1,300 expert manufacturing assistance field staff in more than 350 locations, will identify suppliers' production and technical capabilities and endeavor to match them up with business opportunities that otherwise might have gone to foreign suppliers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will work with MEP to connect American suppliers with opportunities in high-speed intercity passenger rail, including track and station construction and the development of next-generation trains. Examples include an upcoming $782 million order for domestically-built passenger trains for use in California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa, and a request for information for new bi-level passenger coaches due to be issued today by the state of California.

MEP has already been working with the Federal Transit Administration to improve the FTA's ability to assess the merits of requests for waivers from Buy America requirements and find domestic alternatives. In June, representatives from the program met with FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, Deputy Secretary John Porcari, transit agencies, and rail manufacturers to promote the domestic production of steel rails for streetcar projects.