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Part I: Introduction To This Solicitation

A. Background on the UTC Program

In 1988, US DOT initiated the UTC Program as authorized in the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987.  After a nationwide competition, US DOT awarded grants to create a UTC in each of the ten standard federal regions.  The primary purpose of the program at that time was conducting research.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act (ISTEA) of 1991 reauthorized the UTC Program through Fiscal Year 1997, and expanded its mission to include education and technology transfer, as well as research. In addition to the ten Regional Centers, ISTEA created three “national” Centers and six University Research Institutes at universities that were named in the Act.  The program expansion led US DOT to adopt a strategic planning approach to program management based on a mission and goal set that was the same for all 13 Centers and 6 Institutes. US DOT extended the grants to the Regional Centers for three years, but announced its intention to reopen the program to competition.  That occurred in 1994, at which time two of the ten regions experienced a change in the host institution of the Regional Center.

In 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) reauthorized the UTC Program for an additional six years and increased the total number of Centers to 33.  In addition to the ten Regional Centers, which were selected competitively in 1999 (two of the ten Regional UTCs changed hands), TEA-21 created 23 other Centers at institutions named in the Act.  TEA‑21 established education as one of the primary objectives of a UTC and institutionalized the use of strategic planning in university grant management.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59), enacted in 2005, provided the most significant expansion of the UTC program to date.  SAFETEA-LU increased the number of UTCs from the 33 established in TEA-21 to 60, including the ten Regional UTCs plus a new group of ten competitive centers called Tier 1 Centers; the other 40 UTCs were located at institutions named in the Act.  Annual authorized funding for the UTC program also increased from $32.5 million in TEA-21 to $85.9 million in SAFETEA-LU.

The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (the Extension Act), Title 3, Section 306(c)(1)-(2), gave the US DOT the discretion to redistribute funds allocated to specified research projects and programs designated in SAFETEA-LU.  The FY2011 funds were made available through full and open competition following the framework of the competitive UTC programs under SAFETEA-LU Sections 5506(e) & (f).  Grants of approximately $3.5 million each were awarded to ten Tier 1 UTCs, two Tier 1 Transit-Focused UTCs, and ten Regional UTCs.  FY 2012 funds were added to these grants following additional extension legislation.

In 2012, Congress passed new transportation legislation—The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 (Section 52009, University Transportation Centers Program, amending Section 5505 of Title 49 USC) continued the UTC program, authorizing the competitive selection of a new group of UTCs to receive funding through FY 2013 and FY 2014, subject to availability of funding.

US DOT held a full and open competition for these UTCs.  On September 27, 2013 grants were awarded to:

  • Five National UTCs, for $2,828,200 per Center per fiscal year;
  • Eight Regional UTCs (including one dedicated to comprehensive transportation safety), for $2,592,500 per Center per fiscal year; and
  • Twenty Tier 1 UTCs, for $1,414,100 per Center per fiscal year.

No Regional Centers were selected in Regions 3 and 10.  This solicitation, therefore, establishes another full and open competition for these two Regional Centers.  Only UTCs for Regions 3 and 10 are being competed through this solicitation.

For additional information on the UTC Program, please visit http://utc.dot.gov/

B. Mission

The role of each Regional Center shall be the following:

  • Advance transportation expertise and technology in the many disciplines that comprise transportation through research, education and workforce development, and technology transfer;
  • Provide a critical transportation knowledge base outside the US DOT; 
  • Address vital workforce needs and educate the next generation of transportation leaders; and
  • Serve as a focal point within its region to help coordinate UTC transportation research and education programs with regional needs and initiatives.

C. Objectives

Specific objectives of the UTC Program and of each individual Center are:

Research:  To conduct basic and applied research, the products of which are judged by peers or other experts in the field of transportation to advance the body of knowledge in transportation.

Education and Workforce Development:  To provide an education program relating to transportation that includes multidisciplinary course work, participation in research, and workforce development activities and programs to expand the workforce of transportation professionals.

Technology Transfer:  To deliver an ongoing program of technology transfer that makes transportation research results available to potential users in a form that can be implemented, utilized, or otherwise applied.

UTCs shall support the US DOT's Strategic Goals (available in US DOT's 2012-2016 Strategic Plan at http://www.dot.gov/dot-strategic-plan).

  • Safety:  Improve public health and safety by reducing transportation-related fatalities and injuries.
  • State of Good Repair:  Ensure the U.S. proactively maintains its critical transportation infrastructure in a state of good repair.
  • Economic Competitiveness:  Promote transportation policies and investments that bring lasting and equitable economic benefits to the Nation and its citizens.
  • Livable Communities:  Foster livable communities through place-based policies and investments that increase transportation choices and access to transportation services.
  • Environmental Sustainability:  Advance environmentally sustainable policies and investments that reduce carbon and other harmful emissions from transportation sources.

While a UTC's activities may span more than one Strategic Goal, each UTC must choose one of the Strategic Goals as its primary focus area.

Although every Center has the same broad objectives, US DOT encourages diversity in the program participants and in the approaches individual Centers take to reach the program objectives. US DOT encourages unique approaches to research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, building on or reflecting institutional expertise, facilities, and partnerships. Finally, in order to achieve its vision of a truly multimodal integrated system, US DOT encourages UTCs to engage in research, education and workforce development, and technology transfer activities that cut across disciplines and span all modes of transportation,
enabling improvements to the Nation's entire surface transportation system, inclusive of rail, maritime, highway, pipelines and transit. Centers may choose to specialize in any one of these modes of transportation.

D. Regional Centers

A Regional Center, including any consortium members, must be located within the federal region to be served.  The two federal regions included in this solicitation are:

  • Region 3, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia; and
  • Region 10, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. 

Each Regional Center must serve as a focal point within its respective region to help coordinate UTC transportation research and education programs with regional needs and initiatives.  At a minimum, a Regional Center should work with the other UTCs in its region to maximize the effectiveness of the region’s collective services and programs.

In addition to choosing one of the US DOT’s Strategic Goals (Safety, State of Good Repair, Livable Communities, Environmental Sustainability, Economic Competitiveness), as a primary focus area, a Regional Center should address critical transportation priorities as outlined in Sections 503(b)(2), (3), (4) and (5) of Title 23 USC, as amended by MAP-21 (Pub. L. 112-141 Sec. 52003 (effective Oct. 1, 2012)).  For a Center not specializing in highways, one or more of the priorities listed in Section 503(b) that can be applied to any mode (long term safety gains, project delivery, vulnerability to extreme events, life-cycle cost, congestion, freight movement, and any other of these priorities that might apply) should be addressed.

E. Multiparty Arrangements

UTCs may be a single non-profit institution of higher education or a consortium of two or more non-profit institutions of higher education led by one lead institution, all located within one of the two Regions stated above.  Universities may collaborate with state DOTs, the private sector, and community, junior, or technical colleges; however, these organizations or others that are not U.S. non-profit institutions of higher education will not be considered members of a consortium.  The grantee institution will be the direct and primary recipient of US DOT funds, and must perform a substantive role in carrying out Center activities, and not merely serve as a conduit for awards to another party.  Under this solicitation there is no minimum requirement for concentration of funding at the grantee institution.

F. Restrictions on Applying for and Receiving Multiple Grants

MAP-21 restricts the type of grants that an institution might receive, either as a sole or lead institution of a consortium or as a member of a consortium.  Additionally, certain restrictions on submitting applications under this solicitation apply if you have already been awarded a UTC grant under the FY 2013 solicitation. (The full list of FY 2013 UTC grantees can be viewed at http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_recipients/html/2013_grant_recipients.html.)

These restrictions are that:

  • If you received a UTC grant under the FY 2013 solicitation as a sole institution or an institution leading a consortium for a National Center, you are not eligible to apply or receive funds as a sole, lead, or consortium member of a Regional Center under this solicitation for Regions 3 and 10.
  • If you are a consortium member of a National Center selected for funding under the UTC FY 2013 solicitation, you are not eligible to apply or receive funds as a sole or lead institution of a Regional Center under this solicitation for Regions 3 and 10.  You are, however, eligible to be a consortium member of a Regional Center.
  • If you received a UTC grant under the FY 2013 solicitation as a sole institution or an institution leading a consortium for a Tier 1 Center, you are not eligible to apply or receive funds as a sole or lead institution of a Regional Center under this solicitation for Regions 3 and 10.  You are, however, eligible to participate as a consortium member of a Regional Center.
  • If you are a consortium member of a Tier 1 Center selected for funding under the UTC FY 2013 solicitation, you are eligible to apply as a sole, lead, or consortium member for a Regional Center under this solicitation for Regions 3 and 10.

Additionally, if you have received a UTC grant under the FY 2013 solicitation (http://www.rita.dot.gov/utc/about/grant_recipients/html/2013_grant_recipients.html), you may not withdraw from that grant (as a sole, lead, or consortium member) in order to compete in and avoid the statutory restrictions under this solicitation.  US DOT made its selections for the FY 2013 solicitation based on the collective resources and planned activities of all members of each application’s consortium, which must be maintained in order for those grants to be effective.

In considering your participation on applications submitted under this solicitation, we encourage you to refer to Figure 1 below, which illustrates all possible combinations of multiple grants that are allowed or restricted under MAP-21. 

Please note that any applications that are deemed to be in conflict with the restrictions detailed above and presented in Figure 1 will be disqualified immediately.

The horizontal and vertical axes depict the types of roles that your institution plays in a particular grant application.  For example, NL refers to the lead member of a National Center and TM refers to a member of a Tier 1 consortium (a full legend is provided).

Starting at the top with the horizontal axis, select the type of applicant that your institution represents in your first grant application and trace the column below it; next, scroll down the vertical axis and select the type of applicant that you represent in your next grant application and trace the horizontal row to the right of it.  The box in which the two traced lines intersect shows whether your institution is allowed to receive multiple grants, given your particular roles in that combination of applications.

Figure 1.  UTC Recipient Matrix

NS

NM

NL

RS

RM

RL

TS

TM

TL

NS

NO

NO

NO

NO

NO

NO

NO

YES

NO

NM

NO

YES

NO

NO

YES

NO

YES

YES

YES

NL

NO

NO

NO

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NO

NO

NO

YES

NO

RS

NO

NO

NO

NA

NA

NA

NO

YES

NO

RM

NO

YES

NO

NA

NA

NA

YES

YES

YES

RL

NO

NO

NO

NA

NA

NA

NO

YES

NO

TS

NO

YES

NO

NO

YES

NO

YES

YES

YES

TM

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

TL

NO

YES

NO

NO

YES

NO

YES

YES

YES

Legend:
NS - The sole institution of a National Center.
NM- A member of a National Consortium.
NL- The lead institution of a National Consortium.
RS- The sole institution of a Regional Center.
RM- A member of a Regional Consortium.
RL- The lead institution of a Regional Consortium.
TS- The sole institution of a Tier 1 Center.
TM- A member of a Tier 1 Consortium.
TL- The lead institution of a Tier 1 Consortium.
NA - Not applicable, cannot have more than one Regional Center in a region.

G. Grant Deliverables and General Provisions

In addition to the guidance provided in this solicitation, applicants should also refer to two documents posted on the UTC Program website at http://utc.dot.gov/about that will become part of the Grant Agreement when awarded:

  • Deliverables and Reporting Requirements for University Transportation Centers (September 2013);and
  • General Provisions of Grants for University Transportation Centers (September 2013).

These documents provide detailed information about how UTC Program grants will be managed and implemented.  RITA reserves the right to amend these documents as necessary.