MTA pact with Japanese firm complies with rules, U.S. says

Resolving a key issue in a $890-million transit contract, federal officials announced Wednesday that a Japanese firm’s plan to build up to 235 cars for Los Angeles-area light-rail lines complies with requirements that American workers be used for final assembly.

In its decision, the Federal Transit Administration rejected assertions by local labor organizations, community activists and two competing companies that Kinkisharyo International’s production plan would violate “Buy America” requirements by climate-testing a few rail cars in Japan and not the United States.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded the contract on April 30 to Kinkisharyo and rejected bids from Siemens Industry Inc. and CAF USA Inc. Both have filed protests alleging irregularities in the procurement process.

The new light-rail vehicles will be needed for a variety of projects, including the Crenshaw Line, the Expo Line to Santa Monica and extensions of the Gold Line. The contract also will allow Metro to replace 69 aging cars on the Los Angeles-to-Long Beach Blue Line, which suffered significant delays this year partly due to deferred maintenance.

Labor unions and civic organizations, including the Urban League and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Los Angeles, opposed the Kinkisharyo bid, saying the federal and local tax revenue that will pay for the rail cars should be used to create jobs in California, not Japan.

The federal ruling “validates Metro’s assertion that appropriate due diligence regarding compliance with the ‘Buy America’ final assembly requirements was performed on Kinkisharyo’s proposal prior to award recommendation and contract approval,” said Rick Jager, an MTA spokesman.

The authority has rejected the bid protests by Siemens and CAF. Both companies have appealed to MTA’s chief executive.