President Obama has long understood that investments in our infrastructure--including public transportation--create jobs today and pay valuable dividends tomorrow. And DOT has been a strong champion of that idea.
One of our most important and successful job-creating tools is the Buy America program. Buy America ensures that rail projects—from trains and tracks to new stations—are built with American-made parts and supplies.
Our commitment to the principle behind this program is simple: we want to revive the “Made in America” label. That’s good for manufacturers, taxpayers, rail passengers, and the skilled workers of the next generation.
As Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said, "We hear over and over from companies participating on FTA-funded projects that they must use a certain part that can only be made overseas. But here’s what we’ve learned: If you challenge American companies to source their products here in America—rather than abroad—they can and will find a way to do so."
That’s why, over the last five years, FTA has been able to dramatically reduce the number of approved Buy America waivers –requests from companies that need a part from overseas– from more than 37 down to just three this year.
As Administrator Rogoff said, “We think if you can build it there, you can build it here.”
Readers may recall that last month I wrote about Nippon Sharyo’s contract to manufacture a fleet of 130 rail cars in its Illinois plant for service in California and the Midwest. This new work is thanks to Buy America provisions in our high-speed rail program. And the same Rochelle plant is also in the process of starting delivery of 160 Highliner rail cars for Metra’s commuter line in Chicago thanks to FTA's Buy America requirements.
And that activity has created an economic ripple effect. The Rochelle plant's demand for steel has led to one of Nippon Sharyo's key steel suppliers setting up a plant in Belvedere, Illinois.
To help Buy America work even better, DOT is teaming up with the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extensions Partnership to help us identify and develop a domestic supply base for public transit. An inter-agency agreement is in the works that should make it easier to source products domestically for FTA-funded commuter rail, heavy rail, light rail, trolleys, street cars, buses, and other transit systems.
This, in turn, will further boost domestic manufacturing, creating more good jobs here at home and helping our economy grow.
Once again this demonstrates that investing in more transportation options for Americans means more than just relief from highway congestion, a reduced dependence on oil, and saving consumers' money.
It means manufacturing growth that adds jobs and keeps America moving forward.