MARTABridge

Photo courtesy of Itsmarta.com

MARTA and its regional partners planned to open a walking bridge at the Buckhead MARTA station in December, but federal regulations and dysfunction delayed the project by several months.

The new completion date will be spring 2014, and it’s unknown how much the delay will increase the cost of the contract for the work. Buckhead Community Improvement District Executive Director Jim Durrett said MARTA was held up because it needed a waiver to buy certain components of the bridge under the “Buy America Act.”

“There’s a stipulation that everything that goes into the bridge should be made in America. There are some items that have to go into this bridge that are just flat not made in America,” Durrett said. “It took a while for [the Federal Transit Administration] to be convinced this was the case.”

Components for the bridge’s elevator and lighting systems had to be purchased outside of the U.S., according to MARTA officials. That required a waiver, which was delayed by the government shutdown in October.

The bridge, when fully completed, will cross Ga. 400, connecting Stratford Road and Tower Place Drive. Funding for the $32 million project includes $11 million in federal money, MARTA Senior Project Manager Rhonda Allen said.

Because the project receives federal money, it is subject to federal oversight, including “Buy America Act” requirements. The regulations are intended to promote the use of American-made components into transportation projects funded with federal money.

Dave Springstead, Senior Director of Engineering and Development for MARTA, said the provision applies to individual components of products. For example: an air conditioner could be made in the U.S. but some of its components might not be. Components of a product that aren’t sourced in the U.S. must receive a waiver from the transit administration.

That takes time and the problem was compounded by a federal government shutdown in the first two weeks of October.

“I don’t want to beat up the government here, but the shutdown didn’t help,” Springstead said.  “It closed some offices we needed to interface with for a couple of weeks. There was nobody to respond, no engineers to respond to. We were on hold until we could wait until the government was back in business.”

Springstead said he agrees with the intent of the “Buy America Act” and said the completed bridge will be worth the wait.

“This is a super win-win for everybody, including MARTA,” he said.

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