After a lengthy and testy hearing, the BART board has voted 6-2 to award a contract to build a fleet of new rail cars to Bombardier, a Canadian rail car manufacturer.
The cost of the contract is $896 million plus taxes and escalation contingencies.
The contract calls for building 410 train cars and having them in service in 2017. They will replace BART's existing fleet of 40-year-old cars, which the transit agency says are the oldest in the nation by 10 years.
Interviewed Thursday night at a Safeway-sponsored reception for Democratic State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, BART board director John McPartland said he and some other BART board members and many speakers wanted the agency to reject Bombardier's bid because its cars will only have 66% of their components made domestically and instead to accept the bid from the French firm Alstom, which promised to supply cars that would be 95% American.
BART staff members said they recommended Bombardier because its bid was $184 million lower than Alstom's and it had the highest score in a rating system that considered eight factors, including price, experience and past performance and design details.
They said Bombardier is complying with "Buy America" regulations, which require that 60% of the components be made domestically and 100% of the assembly to take place in the U.S.
McPartland and two other directors -- James Fang, Lynette Sweet -- said BART should extend its bidding process because Alstom has said it will improve its bid so it costs less.
But BART staff members said extending the bidding process would violate the agency's bidding rules and the only legal way to extend the process would be to throw out all the bids and start a new process that would take another two years.
Director James Fang proposed extending the bidding process for 11 weeks to give Bombardier, Alstom and Hyundai Rotem, a South Korean company, time to make a final offer that might lower the price for BART.
But the board voted 6-2, with Sweet abstaining, to reject that proposal after BART legal counsel Matthew Burrows said the bidding process was already over and it would be a violation of procedures to accept new bids after the fact.
BART also wants to buy an additional 366 cars that would go into service in 2023. The contract for those cars hasn't yet been awarded.
BART's projected total cost for buying 776 cars is $2.5 billion.