Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was in Springfield today to mark a milestone for local manufacturing and bring much needed upgrades to the largest public transit system in the state.
The first pair of new subway cars built for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) by Chinese rail car manufacturer CRRC were rolled out of the factory Tuesday.
Governor Baker, state transportation officials, legislators and local officials looked out a window as the new rail cars zipped along a test track beside the $95 million factory.
" This is all about, ultimately, bringing the "T" into the 21st Century," said Baker.
Over the next several years more than 400 subway cars will be manufactured in Springfield to replace the rolling stock on the MBTA Orange and Red Lines.
" The cars these are replacing have been on the system since the '70s and have over 2 million miles on them," said Baker.
The new subway cars are rolling off the assembly line in Springfield for delivery to the MBTA at the same time the Baker administration is spending a billion dollars to replace track, switches, signals and other infrastructure on the breakdown- and delay-prone transit system.
The Republican governor credited his Democratic predecessor, Deval Patrick, for working with local officials and CRRC to put the factory in Springfield. In 2014 when the MBTA was seeking bids to build the new subway cars, the state passed up federal funding so it could mandate that the final assembly take place in Massachusetts.
To celebrate the manufacturing milestone, CRRC threw a holiday open house inside the factory for its 200 workers, and hundreds of invited guests. There was food, music, and tours.
As manufacturing is ramping up at the Springfield factory, trade tensions continue between the U.S. and China, an issue that was directly addressed by China’s New York Consul General Huang Ping when he spoke at Tuesday’s event.
" This is a defining bilateral relationship of our times and it has a potential impact on everybody's interests," said Ping.
Ping said he is optimistic for a negotiated settlement in the next couple of months, while President Trump holds off on imposing higher tariffs on Chinese imports.
CRRC is already being hit with tariffs on some of the parts imported to build the subway cars in Springfield and has applied for 16 separate waivers, according to CRRC spokeswoman Lydia Rivera.
"It is signifiicant and if it continues we were not expeccting that cost," said Rivera. " We are creating jobs locally and improving transportation and we feel we should enjoy a waiver from those tariffs."
While fighting the tariffs, CRRC is also lobbying against legislation in Congress that could restrict the state-owned company from doing more business in the U.S.
CRRC has won contracts to build new subway cars at the Springfield factory for Los Angeles and Philadelphia.