Price hike on imported steel caused shortage of American steel, city manager says
Tariffs on imported steel are delaying a local pedestrian safety project.
On Oct. 2, the Taft City Council awarded a bid to Lee Wilson Electrical Company for a $353,000 project that would add 16 LED pedestrian crossing and school crossing signs and two radar feedback signs in addition to repainting existing pedestrian crosswalks and pavement markings.
But all those signs have to be mounted on steel posts, and that's where the problem comes in.
Last year the Trump Administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on all imported steel.
That made steel manufactured in the United States more attractive and prompted a run on American Steel.
Longstanding law requires federally funded projects like the local one to "Buy American," City Manager Craig Jones said, so the local project has to wait until the contractors can buy the steel made here.
Private construction projects used to rely heavily on imported steel, primarily from China, but know everyone is lining up to by American since the tariffs.
"There's more people buying the American Steel," Jones said. "In the past, if you had to do a job as cheap as possible, you'd use Chinese steel. But now there's more people buying the American product."
So the City is just waiting.
"When the contractor gets the final delivery date, we'll finalize the schedule," Jone said
The Kern Street Pedestrian Safety Project is federally funded through the Highway Safety Improvement Program and the money is administered through Kern COG.
The signs will be placed along Kern Street between Hillard and First Street to change driver's behavior and make it safer for pedestrians to cross Kern Street, according to a city staff report.
Several fatal vehicle-pedestrian accidents along Kern street have made safety a top priority for the City.