Rail pact brings 90 jobs to Md. AAI in Hunt Valley, Knorr in Westminster are subcontractors


The state yesterday agreed to buy 18 new light-rail cars for $53.7 million in a deal that will create about 90 manufacturing jobs in Maryland.

The Board of Public Works awarded the contract to ABB Traction Inc. of Elmira, N.Y., but a portion of the work will be performed by two Maryland-based subcontractors, AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley and Knorr Brake Corp. in Westminster.

AAI will be paid $6 million, state officials said, to build the car bodies and the sets of wheels that roll on the tracks. The finished car bodies will be sent to Elmira, where ABB will install electrical and air-conditioning components. Then they will be returned to AAI for final assembly. AAI is expected to add 75 jobs to do the work.

Knorr Brake will supply the brake systems for the cars, expanding its 150-employee work force by 15 and being paid $2.25 million, state officials said.

Knorr President Roger L. Hedman said the contract will also have spinoff benefits for Knorr subcontractors.

"We're very happy on our side to be a part of this," Mr. Hedman said.

For AAI, the contract represents a continuation of the company's shift from defense work to the manufacture of domestic transportation equipment. Previously, the state has had to turn to European or Asian manufacturers for rail cars.

As its defense contracts have declined in recent years, AAI has cut its work force by about 2,500 employees.

About 90 percent of AAI's business had been defense-related, but now the company says about a quarter of its contracts involves work on domestic transportation projects.

Before ABB teamed up with AAI, the car bodies for this contract were going to be manufactured in Denmark, said ABB spokeswoman Karen Breininger.

James F. Buckley, the deputy administrator at the Mass Transit Administration, said that when the new cars are delivered 18 months from now, they will enable the Central Light Rail Line to connect major transportation hubs at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Penn Station and the industrial base around Hunt Valley, where about 350 companies with 30,000 employees are located.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein both praised state officials for their help in bringing rail car manufacturing work to Maryland.

"The dreams of yesterday are the realization of tomorrow. Finally we've come to the realization," said Mr. Goldstein, who said he had wondered, "Why can't we get someone in the United States of America to do this?"

AAI previously has manufactured rail car bodies in California, but not in Maryland. This also marks the first time the company has done the final assembly work, said AAI spokeswoman Susan Flowers.

AAI has previously made the rail car wheels, known as trucks, for the Baltimore light-rail line and this past summer completed a separate project refurbishing MARC train cars for the MTA, Ms. Flowers said.

Mr. Buckley said there currently are about 20,000 trips per day on the Central Light Rail Line, a figure he said is expected to grow to 36,000 by the year 2000.

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