Bay Bridge Contractors Skirting Buy America: National Steel Bridge Alliance Fills Us In

by Taras Berezowsky on January 25, 2012

Style:    Category: Ferrous Metals, Public Policy

MetalMiner Editor Lisa Reisman interviews NSBA’s Executive Director Roger Ferch.

Just the other day, the Dylan Ratigan Show (on which MetalMiner has appeared before) ran a segment revising how the structural revamp of the San Francisco Bay Bridge was outsourced to China.

Why would the state of California jump to contracting with China to procure the necessary structural steel and labor? More to the point, how did contractors get around the Buy America provisions? Needless to say, it’s still an issue that stings the American steel industry, not to mention hundreds or even thousands of US workers who could have benefited from this project.

MetalMiner got more in-depth background on these questions from Roger Ferch, the executive director of the National Steel Bridge Alliance, in a video interview (above). The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) is a division of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

“The mission of AISC is to promote structural steel as the material of choice and grow the market share for steel structures,” Ferch said. “As a division, the NSBA does the same thing for steel bridges. We help the designers and the people building the bridges to provide an economical project that meets the needs of the public.”

As context for the video interview, the difference between Buy America and Buy American is this:

  • Buy America provisions apply to surface transportation projects (highways, bridges, etc.) and have a 25% of the total project cost threshold
  • Buy American provisions apply to most other federal purchases (defense, GSA, etc.), have a long list of allowable trade partner countries such as NAFTA and have an 8% threshold applicable to the component being purchased, not the entire contract.

–The Editors

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