With AnsaldoBreda’s Exclusive Contract Expired, What Is Next?

11_2_09_ansaldobreda.jpgA diagram of the rail car plant repeatedly promised by Ansaldo Breda. To see the full image go here.

Because the news broke on a weekend, the press reports on the dissolution of the talks between Metro and AnsaldoBreda on extending the exclusive contract to build rail cars for the agency were less-than-complete.  Before the news of the verdict in the Christopher Thompson case broke, I was working on a F.A.Q. that would answer all of the questions that are being asked about AnsaldoBreda, the future rail car contract, and what’s next for Metro and AnsaldoBreda.  The full F.A.Q. is available after the jump.  If you have any questions not answered, leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them by the end of the day.

What happened?  I thought the Board and AnsaldoBreda agreed to a contract extension at the September Board Meeting?

While the Board had agreed to extend its exclusive contract with AnsaldoBreda for the construction of light rail cars, that extension came with some pretty hefty conditions.  The most contentious of those was the requirement that AnsaldoBreda deposit hundreds of millions of dollars into a bank account that Metro could draw against everyday that the Italian Rail Car Company was late delivering vehicles.  At the last moment, AnsaldoBreda requested that there be hard limits on how Metro could draw against the account.  Metro didn’t agree.

What happens to Metro’s rail car contracts now?

Metro will need to open the bidding process for any rail car company to make a run at getting the contract for constructing the "Measure R Cars."  We expect the contract competition to be announced at the next Metro Board Meeting.  Back in March staff "warned" that it would take six months for the bidding process to come to its conclusion, so we can expect a contract to be signed early in the summer of 2010.  If Metro had cut bait with AnsaldoBreda in March, we would have known for months who was going to be building our rail cars for the future by now.

Will this effect the Measure R Time Lines?

Maybe, but we don’t know how.

On one hand, the ten month delay in putting the contract out to bid is a disaster.  Cars will cost more and we basically wasted half of a year.

On the other hand, AnsaldoBreda’s working relationship with Metro was so terrible, they were years behind on delivering cars that were too heavy to be used properly, that it’s probably a good thing that they probably won’t be making the cars for all of the Measure R projects.

So That’s It?  No More AnsaldoBreda in L.A.?

Like the villain in a horror-serial that won’t go away; we haven’t heard the last of AnsaldoBreda.  First, they still have to complete their current rail car contract which should have been completed years ago.  Second, Board Member Richard Katz, who was a supporter of AnsaldoBreda during some Board Meetings, blasted the Metro contractor in the press claiming they owe Metro some "free" light rail cars as reparation for their late performance in their current contract.  AnsaldoBreda offered the cars as an attempt to soothe feelings and doesn’t seem interested in following through on that commitment now.

Last, there is nothing to stop AnsaldoBreda from submitting a proposal in the open bidding process.

What About the Rail Car Plant Promised to Los Angeles?

The rail car plant, and the "good high-paying jobs" were only promised to Los Angeles as a bribe to earn approval from the Board.  Poster Erik G. did yeoman’s work tracking down the history of these promises, and I would bet that L.A. doesn’t see a rail car plant built by AnsaldoBreda anytime soon.

Are There Any Winners in This Story?

In short?  No.

The Mayor, his supporters, and unions were basically used by AnsaldoBreda to force a long-term extension of their exclusive rail car contract even though their performance level on their current contract is terrible.  There has to be some egg on their faces.

AnsaldoBreda didn’t get the contract, so they can’t be viewed as winners.

Someone mentioned "taxpayers" as winners, but we lost in this debacle on two fronts.  First, the cars will be "six months more expensive" than they would be if Metro had went to bid in March.  Second, Metro can’t legally consider where rail cars are built when awarding a contract.  However, Villaraigosa repeatedly mentioned the carrot of created jobs as the top reason to move forward with AnsaldoBreda.  He even put it in the statement announcing AnsaldoBreda and Metro weren’t going to come to terms.

Let’s hope the people reading the grant contracts in Washington, D.C. for the Mayor’s ten-year plan don’t read L.A. Streetsblog or any Los Angeles news source.

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This week’s Metro Board Meeting, the meeting where much of the transportation related news for the entire month comes to a conclusion, has a lot of interesting items.  Highlighted by the potential passage of the "2009" Long Range Transportation Plan and the potential extension of the AnsaldoBreda light rail car contract.  However, some smaller items, […]