Critics target $58M state deal for Amtrak rail cars

June 9, 2014

Lansing — State lawmakers are looking into claims that the Department of Transportation is mistakenly buying passenger rail cars that Wisconsin rejected as the result of a faulty bidding process.

The criticism, aired at a recent Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, came from former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek and a competing firm that argues the state’s bid specifications were so narrow only one company could meet them.

At issue is a pending $58 million Michigan Department of Transportation deal to buy two sets of passenger cars built in Milwaukee by the Spanish firm Talgo and once headed for a now-defunct high-speed rail project in Wisconsin…

The state of Michigan wants to buy passenger cars, rather than pay a leasing charge to Amtrak as part of an annual subsidy that has exploded from $8 million in the 2013 budget year to $40 million this year for its three routes…

Talgo was the only bidder on Michigan’s proposal to upgrade to “next-generation” passenger coaches. An official of a competing company issued a statement Friday claiming the state’s request for bid proposals “was so narrowly targeted at one company’s product that we could not meet it.”

“MDOT simply did not write us into its script,” added James Coston, chairman of Chicago-based Corridor Capital LLC. “Instead, it drafted a one-character show and then invited the character to come to Lansing and perform.”

…Schwarz said Talgo’s cars, while new, are inadequate …[and] are “not compatible with existing Amtrak equipment nor with Amtrak next-generation equipment which may or may not come online sometime in the 2017, 2018 or 2019 time frame…”

Read the rest of the story at the Detroit News, 8 June 2014

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