On May 19, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued a 180-day temporary waiver for “Buy America” rules related to the category of construction materials.
The waiver is applicable to awards obligated on or after May 14 and before November 10, and will apply for the duration of awards obligated during this 180-day period.
USDOT expects transportation agencies to establish new certification processes and work with industry to ensure compliance during the transition period.
According to the AASHTO Journal, USDOT officials will be seeking information and feedback from states, industry and other stakeholders on challenges and solutions for implementing the requirement. They will gather feedback on the sourcing of the full range of construction materials used in transportation projects, and determine strategies for increasing domestic capacity to produce those materials.
While AASHTO said state DOTs support the goal of promoting domestic jobs and encouraging economic growth by using American-made products and materials in federally-funded projects, they do have concerns regarding delays and disruptions to project delivery. In the letter, AASHTO requested an 18 to 24 month extension to the transition period.
“The new ‘Buy America’ requirements will exacerbate delay and cost concerns if contractors are forced to abruptly shift material purchases to domestic sources that may struggle with availability due to limited quantities or high demand,” the organization said.
“USDOT needs to be both thoughtful and flexible with its requirements and restrictions in order to encourage industry growth without inadvertently running existing manufacturers out of business that cannot quickly source American-made materials, and without contributing to the significant inflation in prices that is already occurring,” AASHTO wrote.
In response to AASHTO’s comments, the USDOT acknowledged the department has heard from stakeholders regarding concerns about the implementation of ‘Buy America’ requirements to construction materials, and recognizes the need to implement the change in a way that is not overly burdensome.
Source: AASHTO Journal