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NSBA Addresses ARRC Abuse of Federal Funds for $190 Million Tanana River Bridge Crossing Project

July 20, 2011 from The National Steel Bridge Alliance

(Chicago, IL) – The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) has issued a detailed statement outlining their objection to the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) on their intent to use federally provided funding to purchase foreign steel and off-shore fabrication for the Tanana River crossing and related projects. The $190 million Tanana River Bridge Crossing project is being developed as part of the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s Northern Rail Extension, which would provide the military year round access to the Joint Pacific Area Range Complex (JPARC) military training grounds. Federal funding for this project has come from the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the U.S. Department of Defense has already provided $104 million.

NSBA states that efforts are currently being made to source the material and fabrication from non-domestic sources, and it would be an outrageous abuse of taxpayer funds if the Alaskan Railroad Corporation uses tax payers’ money to support the steel industry overseas for this important national security project when we could be providing jobs for our citizens.

According to the NSBA:

  • There is no need to seek a foreign option for a product that is routinely and efficiently produced domestically.
  • Federal transportation law has very clear Buy America provisions to ensure that when U.S. taxpayer funds are invested in domestic transportation projects, preference is given to the use of steel produced in the United States so that U.S. workers and businesses receive the jobs and associated economic benefit of that investment. That requirement extends to the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and to the Federal Railroad Administration. At this time, there has been no waiver for any U.S. Buy American regulations filed by any parties involved in this project.
  • ARRC has not provided any information concerning the cost of the steel they intend to source overseas, including not only the cost of the completed fabrication, but the necessary additional costs of transportation and contract administration.
  • The lower price of foreign steel is only possible because of exceedingly low worker wage rates and the nearly total absence of any workplace safety or environmental or sustainability standards in their production. This should give ARRC pause in its decision to invest its taxpayer funded capital in this production. In fact, a comprehensive analysis of the total cost of this investment, by the end of the process, will likely yield little difference from U.S. fabrication costs.
  • ARRC’s plan to source the Tanana River steel bridge components offshore seems parallel to the unfortunate decision of California authorities to source Oakland Bay Bridge steel from a Chinese producer ostensibly for reasons of cost and more rapid availability when, in fact, the Chinese fabricator had quality problems and has been seriously late in delivering the project, which is now more than three years behind schedule. The state and its contractors have spent millions in extra funds monitoring the production and fabrication process, thousands of Chinese jobs at low labor rates were subsidized by California taxpayers, and the U.S. bridge fabricators who were ready to do the job but were bypassed allegedly for price and scheduling issues, could have, in fact, supplied the necessary steel within the time frame and overall cost which the project sustained as a result of its decision to go with a Chinese fabricator.

The following delegates have been notified of this situation:

  • Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood
  • Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley
  • Secretary of the Army John McHugh
  • Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari
  • Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff
  • Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo
  • Commander, Alaskan Command Lt. General Dana Atkins
  • Major General Raymond Palumbo
  • Senator Mark Begich
  • Senator Barbara Boxer
  • Senator Maria Cantwell
  • Senator James Inhofe
  • Senator Daniel Inouye
  • Senator Jeff Merkley
  • Senator Patty Murray
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski
  • Senator Jay Rockefeller
  • Senator Ron Wyden
  • Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler
  • Representative Peter DeFazio
  • Representative Norm Dicks
  • Representative John Garamendi
  • Representative Steny Hoyer
  • Representative John Mica
  • Representative Nick J. Rahall
  • Representative Adam Smith
  • Representative Don Young

NSBA Executive Director Roger Ferch is available for interviews to discuss NSBA’s position on federal funds for the Tanana River Bridge Crossing Project.


For more information contact:

Tasha Weiss
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]


American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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