Idaho Trainmaker Wins $115M Deal

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- An Idaho locomotive maker will share in a $115 million deal to supply 20 new commuter rail locomotives to Boston's public transit agency, but the package is smaller than one floated two years ago before it bogged down in an international trade dispute.

Boise locomotive maker MotivePower Inc., a unit of Pennsylvania-based Wabtec Corp., will build the locomotives for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The authority plans to retire some of its aging fleet of 80 locomotives, some of which are more than 30 years old and are blamed for service delays.

In 2008, MotivePower tried to win a share of what was then a transaction for at least 28 locomotives and valued at as much as $186 million.

That collapsed after MotivePower enlisted Idaho's congressional delegation to help convince the federal government, which is paying for much of the Boston project, not to waive protectionist "Buy America" trade rules that prevented a European rival from bidding on the contract.

The decision blocked Germany's Vossloh AG from the competition.

Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the Boston transit agency, said Thursday the decision to move ahead now is being driven by financial realities and the need to start changing out its fleet, including 18 locomotives manufactured between 1978 and 1980 that were due for retirement five years ago.

"The MBTA has limited funds for its wide array of capital improvement needs," Pesaturo told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

The original proposal had called for options for up to 56 locomotives.

The Boston agency wanted Vossloh's bid allowed as it sought to reduce the project's cost; the German company wanted to build and assemble two prototype locomotives at its factories in Spain.

But federal "Buy America" rules, meant to protect U.S. industry, require that new equipment purchased by agencies such as the MBTA be assembled on U.S. soil and consist of 60 percent American parts.

As part of this scaled-back transaction, MotivePower now plans to build 20 fuel-efficient locomotives at a factory in Boise.

They'll be tested in Massachusetts before they are commissioned and are expected to be in service by 2013.

Wabtec spokesman Tim Wesley declined to comment on the reduced dimensions of the transaction compared with 2008, but confirmed his company had won the Boston agency's nod to build the locomotives in Boise.

"We were awarded the project," Wesley said. "We have not yet signed a contract."

Wabtec indicated the proposed contract will create or preserve 1,246 union jobs.

At the time of the fight two years ago, the Wilmerding, Pa.-based company and Idaho lawmakers argued that 85 engineering jobs would be exported to Spain and as many as 200 manufacturing jobs in Boise eliminated if the "Buy America" waiver were granted and Vossloh wound up winning the contract.

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