AGC Comments on FHWA Buy America Revisions

Source: AGC Highway Facts Bulletin

AGC submitted comments to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in strong support of its proposal to provide nationwide waivers of Buy America requirements for commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) products with iron and steel components and for steel tie wire permanently incorporated in precast concrete products. AGC also urged FHWA to issue a nationwide waiver for specialized steel lifting devices that are incorporated in precast concrete products. AGC suggested that FHWA raise the dollar threshold for the minimum amount of steel products that can be exempted from Buy America requirements from $2500 to $20,000 or base it on a PPI escalator. AGC also suggested that utility relocation work required as part of a highway improvement project also be exempted.

FHWA took this action to relieve some of the burden on states in implementing Buy America requirements. While these requirements have been in place since the mid-1980s, following the ramp up of Federal highway funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), new scrutiny was placed on how Buy America requirements were enforced on FHWA funded projects. The new scrutiny led to unreasonable requirements to obtain certification that every component of every manufactured product was Buy America compliant. The new scrutiny also led to every project component, no matter how small (nails, bolts, etc) to also meet the mandate. At AGC’s urging FHWA issued guidance relieving some of the mandate on manufactured products but this was challenged in court. The judge ruled that FHWA had not followed proper procedures in issuing this guidance. AGC along with several industry groups urged FHWA to issue a rule following the proper procedures to relieve some of the burden.