FHWA revisits Buy America provisions for rebar tie wire, precast lifting devices

Sources: Federal Highway Administration; National Precast Concrete Association, Carmel, Ind.; CP staff

Through a recent Federal Register notice, the Federal Highway Administration seeks comments on a one-year waiver under the Buy America Act for tie wire spools used in rebar-tying guns, and indicates the potential for similar action on precast concrete lifting devices. A public comment period runs through December 2 on three agency points:

  • Proposed Nationwide Waiver for Commercially Available Off-the-Shelf Products With Steel or Iron Components
  • Proposed Temporary Nationwide Waiver for Steel Tie Wire Permanently Incorporated in Precast Concrete Products
  • Additional Question Regarding Other Steel and Iron Products Permanently Incorporated in Precast Concrete Products

Comments can be submitted through the www.regulations.gov portal, or to the U.S. Department of Transportation Washington, D.C., headquarters office. The National Precast Concrete Association has been the primary industry liaison with FHWA for Buy America Act provisions, and plans to meet with agency leaders prior to submitting comments on the tie wire and lifting device waivers.

FHWA’s notice is formally titled “Buy America Nationwide Waiver Notification for Commercially Available Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Products With Steel or Iron Components and for Steel Tie Wire Permanently Incorporated in Precast Concrete Products.” It traces agency response to a) Buy America Act enforcement on projects funded by the America Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009; and, b) a late-2015 U.S. District Court decision favoring a union and domestic manufacturer coalition challenging a 2012 memorandum through which FHWA sought to clarify Buy America terms on products including rebar tie wire and precast concrete lifting devices.

“Verifying compliance with the Buy America requirements may be burdensome for some materials. For others, it is virtually impossible to trace the processes from the melting of the steel through the manufacturing and coating of the steel or iron materials,” the agency concedes in the October 18, 2016, Federal Register. “The FHWA believes that requiring contracting agencies to document the origin of every amount of steel or iron subcomponent of commercially available off-the-shelf products [COTS] places an unreasonable burden on recipients and increases their administrative costs without significantly furthering the objectives and policies of Buy America. Therefore, FHWA seeks comments about the administrative costs of documenting the origin of steel or iron used in subcomponents of COTS products.”

Additional information on the proposed waivers and Buy America provisions impacting federally funded projects can be obtained from FHWA’s Gerald Yakowenko, Office of Program Administration, 202/366–1562, [email protected]; or, William Winne, Office of the Chief Counsel, 202/ 366–1397, [email protected].

NPCA flags precasters on reversal of steel products’ Buy America exemption