Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez recommended Friday that a contract for more than $313 million be granted to the Italian firm, AnsaldoBreda, to replace 136 Metrorail cars.
Gimenez’s decision, which he announced Friday in a memo addressed to the county commission, is expected to create controversy because another firm that was also competing for the job — CAF-USA, a subsidiary of the Spanish railroad company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles — had protested angrily over a similar recommendation made by the administration of the previous mayor, Carlos Álvarez, of using AnsaldoBreda
CAF-USA protested in March 2011 before the Federal Transit Administration, which ruled in November that county officials had violated federal rules in the selection of the company that would supply the cars. Therefore, FTA said then, the project would not receive federal funds until the county followed the process under the appropriate rules.
Miguel De Grandy, attorney for CAF-USA, told El Nuevo Herald Friday afternoon that Gimenez made a mistake by recommending AnsaldoBreda.
“The county administration recommends a company with a history of performance problems which had also proposed to serve the order from different places and facilities in a way that even the former county railroad director had warned that it would be risky for the county,” De Grandy said.
The core of the dispute was that FTA had concluded that Miami-Dade had broken the rules by selecting AnsaldoBreda over CAF-USA because the Italian firm had offered to build a facility in the county to assemble the new cars while the other competing firm was never informed that building that facility was fundamental to granting the contract.
As a result of FTA’s recommendation, Gimenez decided to have the project reevaluated by the committee that had previously recommended AnsaldoBreda. In December the committee again recommended that the contract be granted to AnsaldoBreda.
Gimenez’s recommendation will go to the commission for a vote within days or weeks.
Besides the dispute over the local assembling facility, critics of the contract with AnsaldoBreda argue that the Italian firm has a reputation for excessive delays in delivering equipment to other cities that had also selected the company.
Yet Gimenez’s memo Friday says that county officials investigated those allegations and concluded that AnsaldoBreda will have no problems building and delivering the new Metrorail cars on time.
“County officials reviewed media coverage of the company’s performance in Los Angeles, Buffalo, Cleveland, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington, DC, Holland, Denmark and Norway,” Gimenez’s memo says. “Those articles mention delays in delivery as well as performance problems of the vehicles supplied by AnsaldoBreda.”
But, the memo adds, county investigators concluded that they are confident that AnsaldoBreda will be able to deliver the vehicles in the Miami-Dade contract without problems.
“AnsaldoBreda demonstrated that all their facilities of engineering, manufacture and production have the capacity to handle the Miami-Dade contract,” the memo says. In conclusion, Gimenez says that granting the contract to AnsaldoBreda “offers the best value to Miami-Dade County and the taxpayers we serve.”
Metrorail was inaugurated in Miami-Dade in 1984 with only one line from Dadeland to Hialeah, which eventually extended to the Palmetto Expressway. On July 28, the Miami Dade Transit administration opened a second Metrorail line to the Miami International Airport.