The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on behalf of the departments of transportation from Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri issued a Notice of Intent to Award today to Sumitomo Corporation of America to design, build, and deliver 130 bi-level passenger railcars for use in regional intercity rail corridors in California and the Midwest. The Notice of Intent to Award does not signify that a contract has been awarded but that a potential vendor has been identified.
Sumitomo Corporation of America submitted a bid of $352,276,000.
“By pooling our resources, all four states involved in this partnership can purchase the equipment at lower costs because it will be acquired in high volume under one contract,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These new railcars will help us meet the growing ridership demand on California trains, which is up 53 percent since 2002.”
Caltrans and the Illinois Department of Transportation will first conduct a federally required Buy America pre-award audit to verify assembly locations and manufacturing facilities for railcar components. Buy America rules require that all 130 new bi-level cars be assembled in the United States, and that all the major components must be manufactured domestically. The audit will be forwarded to the Federal Railroad Administration prior to the contract award. Sumitomo Corporation of America will also be required to submit insurance policies and performance bonds. A fully executed agreement is expected to be in place by mid-November.
California will receive 42 railcars, while the Midwest Coalition, consisting of Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri will receive 88 railcars. Railcars delivered to California will be used on the three state-supported intercity routes, the Capitol Corridor (Sacramento area-Oakland-San Jose), the San Joaquin (San Francisco Bay Area/Sacramento-Bakersfield/Southern California), and the Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obisbo-Los Angeles-San Diego). The Midwest Coalition will use its new railcars on the following corridors: Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron), Wolverine (Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac), Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids), Illini/Saluki (Chicago-Carbondale), Lincoln Service (Chicago-St Louis), Missouri River Runner (St Louis-Kansas City), Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg (Chicago-Quincy), and future services between Chicago and Dubuque and Chicago and the Quad Cities, with potential extension to Iowa City.
The first railcars are slated for delivery in the fall of 2015, with the final car expected to be delivered in early 2018.
Happily, this represents a substantial cost savings from the original funding amount, with a per car cost of $2.7 million saving $200 million from the total grant awards. Hopefully that savings will be rolled into extending the production lines and ordering more cars in order to increase capacity on various routes (as well as to remove all Superliner, Horizon, and Amfleet cars from California).
Compared to the only recent bilevel coach order I could find, for Israel Railways, there's a half million dollar price premium for the American cars, however this may be an artifact of adding additional cars to an order already in process. An earlier order was for $2.5 million per car in 2010 and that represented a major cost savings of 15-20% from yet an earlier order. Presumably a similar process is possible with these new cars.