CLEVELAND, Ohio — Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority on Friday canceled its first attempt to find a manufacturer for new railcars after it received only one proposal that did not meet its needs, RTA said in a late afternoon news release.
RTA intends to start the search over again, as it “remains committed” to replacing its aging railcar fleet. The new search will begin sometime over the next few months, the release stated.
The do-over will delay what RTA sees as a crucial step for the future of rail service in Cuyahoga County. A consultant in 2019 concluded the Red Line’s heavy-rail fleet was generally in poor condition and had a useful life of at most five years. The light-rail fleet, which serves the Blue and Green lines, had a useful life of 10 years or less, the consultant said in 2019.
RTA, in its February request for proposals from railcar manufacturers, sought one standardized fleet of cars that could run on all three lines — a somewhat specialized product, but one that RTA said would make maintenance easier and reduce costs.
Manufacturers had three months to develop and submit responses to RTA’s original request. Though two vendors initially showed interest, only one submitted a formal proposal in time for the May deadline, the release stated.
An RTA review panel ultimately “concluded that proposal was not responsive to the technical requirements of the solicitation,” the release stated.
The cancelation comes about a month after transit advocacy group All Aboard Ohio filed a complaint with the Federal Transportation Administration’s inspector general. It did so after it was told by “sources at GCRTA and at a railcar manufacturer” that RTA twice denied deadline extensions sought by one or more manufacturers, who wanted more time to respond to RTA’s request.
All Aboard Ohio was concerned those denials would suppress competition among bidders, potentially driving up costs for taxpayers on what is expected to be a roughly $240 million purchase.
The group also wanted RTA to lengthen the window in which manufacturers could respond — from three months to four months.
All Aboard Ohio now hopes RTA will lengthen the amount of time that bidders have to respond to the authority’s second procurement process, said Ken Prendergast, the group’s public affairs director.
“The previous response time was too short and that was a big reason, we believe, RTA did not get the responses,” Prendergast said. “Manufacturers have the upper hand and RTA is a small fish in the sea. If they don’t make it worthwhile for manufacturers to respond, they’re not going to.”