CTA scuttles no-bid deal for Bombardier rail-repair facility

If you missed the Tribune's exclusive story today about how the CTA was thatclose to giving a no-bid, $300 million contract to Bombardier to build a rail overhaul facility on the South Side, then you must give it a read.

Yes, that's the same company that is producing 704 new rail cars for the CTA - production that had to be halted until Bombardier fixed problems with the wheel housings on the rail cars. From the Tribune story:

First word of the previously undisclosed discussions with Bombardier comes as Emanuel is asking the City Council to give him broad authority to partner with the private sector to build everything from schools and sewers to ports and railways. The details uncovered by the newspaper highlight both the potential benefits and pitfalls of such public-private partnerships....

Emanuel's press office repeatedly refused to answer questions about what involvement the mayor had in the Bombardier discussions. On Tuesday his top spokeswoman would only acknowledge the mayor was initially attracted to the Bombardier plan because of potential jobs. She said the mayor soured on the idea because of the no-bid aspect, without saying when that happened.

"The mayor doesn't do sole-source deals," said Emanuel communications director Sarah Hamilton. "It was a nonstarter. It was never going to happen."

Nice job on this story by Jon Hilkevitch and David Kidwell. And they give some back story on how the story unfolded here.

Also, in case you missed it today, Jack and Scooter, your two favorite CTA Tattler commenters, discuss the story in this thread.


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  • Yes we did.

    I was expecting a little bit more from the backstory, but the only thing there was "Our tipsters then told us...." At least the reporters dug after getting the tips.

    Molly Sullivan must be rolling in her grave.

  • Makes you wonder if that's why the news about the rail cars was a little slow to come out.

    They mention it was a no-bid offer, but could there even be a possible other bidder?

  • In reply to chris:

    Alstom, for instance, which rebuilt the 2600s and apparently now is crying that it is short on work.

    In that Quinn supposedly lured Sumitomo to assemble the Nippon Sharyo Metra Electric cars [note the use of the term Electric] in Rochelle, Illinois, I suppose that they could have induced some Japanese company to do the CTA cars too.

    It seems like the only legal reason [or more properly excuse] that CTA has is that somehow CTA has some Bombardier proprietary information that would be needed to make the cars compartible with the 5000s. However, (a) as discussed earlier, this seems a bogus excuse used by CTA not to comply with a Tribne FOIA request for what is obviously a public works contract [note the use of the word public], even though they did disclose who the Chinese contractor was, and (b) since this fell apart, either through the antiseptic light of the Tribune or the Chinese part fiasco, Rahm now says it has to go to an open process.

  • Chris, there definitely are a few other companies that do rail car maintenance who would love the chance to bid on a $300 million contract.

  • The politics of public transit in Chicago will always make for great reading, especially when the reporters are not afraid to call it like they see it.

    Did I miss something? Doesn't CTA have a rail maintenace facility in Skokie? Didn't they build a new overhaul shop and renovate all the other buildings in the late 1990s? Why can't Skokie Shops accommodate the 5000-series cars? What will CTA do with Skokie Shops if they build a new facility on the south side? Maybe they could use the land to build a huge bus garage to replace the ancient outdoor bus facilities on the north side?

  • In reply to GaryChicago:

    I mentioned the "what work would Skokie Shops have" angle before.

    While Skokie would probably be closer to Howard, where most North Park buses start their runs, you have to figure:

    (a) CTA doesn't have the money, or they would have replaced 77th before (and were saying for 20 years that Archer was due for replacement until they shut it down).

    (b) People in Skokie probably wouldn't want it, sort of like they didn't want the Yellow Line extension that the consultants said was the "locally preferred alternative," that the locals didn't prefer--especially Skokie's mayor.

    (c) Emanuel isn't going to bring jobs or business to Skokie. Just think about how many drivers that now eat lunch at the McDonald's or Korean places at Kedzie and Foster would shift their patronage to the Brown's Chicken (and maybe even the Hungarian Kosher) at Oakton and Crawford.

    (d) If CTA ever got the TIGGER grant for the 80 electric outlets for the hybrid buses, they would have to depreciate that equipment, first.

    Emanuel would rather build a new North Park garage at 61st and Calumet and deadhead the buses to Howard. Heck, that probably wouldn't make that much difference for those runs that start at Howard or Foster and end downtown.

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