New light rail firm rolls into Palmdale
Metro contracts spur opening of plant
Merdies Hayes | 9/13/2013, midnight
In yet another boost to the Palmdale economic engine, Kinkisharyo International will open shop here to build from 175-235 light rail cars for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro), a move which could mean as many as 150-200 new permanent local jobs.
Kinkisharyo, based in Osaka, Japan, is North America’s foremost manufacturer of “low floor” light rail vehicles (LRV); and the first 69 of these vehicles rolling off the assembly line will replace the aging cars on the Metro Blue Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach. The factory will open its doors by the middle of next month.
With the first cars expected for delivery by 2015, the succeeding vehicles are scheduled for the new Crenshaw/LAX Line, as well as the Metro GoldLine/Foothilll extension, and then on the Expo Phase 2 to Santa Monica. Metro, in 2012, awarded Kinkisharyo an $890 million contract to build the rail cars at Rockwell. International’s old “Site 9” at Plant 42 where the B-1B bomber was assembled in the late 1970s.
Kinkisharyo, which has manufactured rail vehicles since 1920, has been very busy attracting American clients. Already the firm has supplied vehicles for light rail systems in Phoenix, Ariz. and in Seattle, Wash., as well as vehicles for the New Jersey Transit System. Overseas, they have exported more than 1,000 vehicles to Egypt and, within Asia, Kinkisharyo has supplied transportation systems in Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.
Kinkisharyo is now seeking to fill positions in manufacturing engineering, production supervision, mechanical and electrical quality control, as well as a number of inspectors, technicians and master schedulers. The delivery of train cars will help resolve problems of past service delays and deferred maintenance on the Blue Line’s 20-mile stretch of track. This was the first Metro light rail line to open (1990).
Right now, NASA is using the famous Rockwell site to house a number of service aircraft, including the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (a flying telescope), Lockheed’s high-altitude ER-2 and a DC-8 (McDonnell-Douglas) flying laboratory. The plant is located at 30th Street East and Avenue P.
“We continue to work hard to attract potential manufacturers to come to Palmdale and take advantage of all that we have to offer—a skilled workforce, outstanding retail and restaurants, beautiful parks and amenities, and affordable housing,” said Dave Walter, Palmdale economic development manager, who added that the sprawling plant could provide Kinkisharyo with the capability to produce more than light rail. Walter added that the company’s operation could pump as much as $20 million annually into the Palmdale economy.
The Metro contract called on Kinkisharyo to produce two rail cars in what Ledford called the demonstration phase of the project. These cars are part of Metro’s pilot program and are expected to be delivered by October 2014.
The next 76 vehicles will be delivered beginning in May 2015 through February 2017. The next batch of 97 LRVs to be built in Palmdale will be delivered to Metro beginning in March 2017. Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said in May that the contract included a commitment by the Japanese firm to create American jobs in the process of delivering the vehicles. “It sets the stage for the balance of the program,” Ledford explained. “This opens the door with MTA for other rail car construction.”