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

In a mid-October Federal Register notice, the Federal Highway Administration indicated a possible one-year Buy America Act provision waiver for tie wire spools used in rebar-tying guns, and the potential for similar action on precast concrete lifting devices. The agency will weigh public comment on three 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.

The National Precast Concrete Association has been the primary industry liaison with FHWA for Buy America Act provisions, and planned to meet with agency leaders prior to submitting comments on the tie wire and lifting device waivers.

FHWA titled its notice “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 conceded. “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].