Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)

Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)

The President's FY2012 budget includes $6.8 million for RITA-administered research, development and technology. RITA also manages $8 million from FTA, and $322 million from FHWA.

Alternative Fuels R&D: $0.5M

  • To fulfill its role as DOT's lead agency in support of Alternative Fuels R&D, RITA will continue to coordinate, manage and execute key components of the Department's alternative fuels activities in collaboration with DOT Operating Administrations, DOE, EPA, USDA, Federal, State, academic, and industry partners. This includes participating with the congressionally-mandated Biomass Research and Development Board, hosting the Interagency Biofuels Infrastructure workshop April 2011, and facilitating intermodal and cross-cutting innovative research through the DOT Alternative Fuels Working Group.

Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) Coordination: $ 0.9M

  • RITA is carrying out the Mineta Act mandate to ensure RD&T coordination and collaboration and leveraging of resources within DOT and with external entities.
  • SAFETEA-LU required a DOT R&D Strategic Plan and a review by the National Academies' National Research Council (NRC). Using the DOT Strategic Plan as a guiding document, the DOT RD&T Planning Team developed the 2011 2016 DOT RD&T Strategic Plan. The Plan will be published this spring in the Federal Register through which comments and suggestions will be solicited from the public. The public's comments and suggestions will be reviewed and incorporated into the plan as deemed appropriate by the RDT Planning Team and an expert panel led by the chairman of the original NRC review committee. The finalized 2011-2016 DOT RD&T Strategic Plan will be published this summer.
  • During the past 12 months, RITA formed 14 Research Clusters composed of DOT researchers and faculty from DOT-funded universities to communicate through a SharePoint site for information sharing and research collaboration. Support is needed in 2012 to continue and maintain this effort, to enhance the use of social media for information dissemination and to host virtual and in-person research seminars and critical topic reviews.
  • Also during the past 12 months, RITA initiated a Transportation Technology Transfer program supportive of transportation product development and dissemination to enhance the Department's ability to identify and support technology transfer of products of University Research Centers. RITA is sponsoring the first annual University Transportation Center (UTC) Technology Transfer Showcase on Wednesday, April 6 at US DOT headquarters, highlighting the work of 25 UTCs.
  • To enhance awareness and transparency, RITA has developed a web-based Knowledge Management System in response to a GAO recommendation that RITA develop a searchable database for R&D activities. The objective of this initiative is to maintain a repository that fully integrates information about R&D at the project level funded by DOT, both internally at DOT and externally at universities. Additional FY 2012 funding will support the posting and maintenance of the database as well as data mining to develop composite reports of DOT research in key areas, identification of new cluster areas, and identification of research products for technology transfer.

Positioning, Navigation and Timing: $1M

  • The Positioning, Navigation and Timing Program (PNT) coordinates DOT PNT technology and policy, as well as provides civil PNT systems analysis which is critical to intermodal transportation applications. In 2007, the Secretary of Transportation delegated the DOT PNT responsibility to RITA.
  • Per National Security Presidential Directive-39, DOT serves as the lead for PNT requirements, architecture development, and GPS acquisition, development, and operations for all United States Government civil departments and agencies.
  • The PNT Program is essential to ensuring that critical infrastructures have the primary and back-up PNT systems upon which they depend for daily operations, as well as identifying and pursuing gaps and research needed to meet these requirements, to enable future systems such as NextGen, Positive Train Control, and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).
  • During the past 12 months, DOT and DoD, in conjunction with 29 other government departments and agencies and outreach to industry and universities, completed the National PNT Architecture Implementation Plan. This plan provides a roadmap through 2025 to overcome capability gaps predominantly resulting from the limitations of GPS.
  • The PNT program produces the Federal Radionavigation Plan in conjunction with DoD and DHS, the Civil PNT Requirements Document, chairs the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee, and advances the National PNT Architecture in conjunction with the Department of Defense and other government agencies

Competitive University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program [$100M]*

  • *The funding will come through FHWA ($92M) and FTA ($8M) to RITA. 
  • The UTC Program will consist of two components: A. base funding of $80M for multimodal and multidisciplinary UTC consortia around particular theme areas, plus B. an additional $20M that will be reserved for a targeted multimodal research program for which the UTCs can compete. By funding university research and education, the USDOT is investing in our nation's intellectual transportation capacity.
  • A. Competitive UTC Consortia [$80M]*
    • o   *The funding will come through FHWA ($72M) and FTA ($8M) to RITA. 
    • o   The UTC Program was initiated in 1987 under the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, which authorized the establishment and operation of transportation centers in each of the 10 standard federal regions. The Program was reauthorized and expanded in 1991, 1998, and 2005. In 2005, SAFETEA-LU reauthorized the Program, increasing the number of Centers from 33 to 60. In addition to the 10 Regional Centers, which were competitively selected, 10 Tier-1-funded Centers were competitively selected. All of the UTCs except for the Title III Centers are required to have a one-for-one funding match. The current legislation does not require the Title III centers to match their grant funding dollar for dollar. The 60 Centers include a total of 125 universities. The UTC grants support research, education and technology transfer.
    • o   The UTC Program's mission is to advance transportation expertise and technology in the many disciplines that comprise transportation through education, research and technology transfer at university-based consortia.
    • o   The UTC Program provides a critical transportation knowledge base outside of the USDOT and addresses critical workforce needs for future generations of transportation leaders. USDOT proposes to reform the UTC Program by competitively selecting UTC consortia that will be governed by peer review principles. All UTCs will be selected via rigorous competition that will include incentives for addressing key USDOT priorities.
    • o   Each competitively selected UTC consortia will receive baseline funding. These competitively selected recipients will also be eligible to receive funds from the UTC Multimodal Competitive Research Grants.
  • B. UTC Multimodal Competitive Research Grants: [$20M]*
    • o   *The funding will come through FHWA to RITA. 
    • o   Most USDOT research is funded on a mode-by-mode basis. In order to encourage cross-modal research, the Secretary will appoint an internal cross-modal USDOT governance council to select annual priorities for targeted research needs. The University Transportation Center (UTC) Competitive Research Grant Program reserves 20 percent of the total $100M competitive UTC program to provide USDOT's modal administrations access to the nation's top academic researchers and University-based laboratories to address specific cross-modal research priorities in the areas of safety, state of good repair, economic competitiveness, livable communities and environmental sustainability.
    • o   This program will allow all modal administrations to bring research needs, unanticipated issues, and quick-response problems to the table on an annual basis that UTC universities can compete for. This unique cross-modal program will enable USDOT staff to engage directly in partnership with UTC researchers to solve pressing problems or support policy decisions on a more nimble and responsive basis. Eligible recipients of these grants will be any of the universities participating in the competitively selected UTCs.
    • o   Frequently, UTCs develop promising results in their outlined baseline funded programs that modal administrations wish to capitalize on or to more specifically focus. These funds will allow modal administrations to develop Statements of Work to obtain that follow-on research to answer specific questions or to tap into unique expertise developed by a particular UTC consortium.

Multimodal Innovative Research Program: [$20M]*

  • *The funding will come through FHWA to RITA. The Multimodal Innovative Research Program is a restructuring of the current Advanced Research Program, managed by RITA. The existing Advanced Research Program is a reimbursable program with FHWA that funds research relevant to FHWA but also applicable to other modal administrations.
  • Using the DOT RD&T Planning Team and RD&T Planning Council as cross-modal selecting bodies, the new program will fund a set of collaboratively outlined long-term research priorities. Competitively solicited proposals for the research will be open to bid by industry, university or state-based stakeholders and will serve as the basis for this Departmental, multi-modal research agenda. Guided by the USDOT RD&T Strategic Plan, this initiative will create opportunities for funding cross-modal research that is aimed at solving transportation problems at the interfaces between modes, or problems that affect more than one mode.
  • The initiative will also include a component fostering creativity and innovation that can support a competition and prize program aimed at solving urgent transportation problems, in support of the Administration's Open Government initiative. This program will also support key partnerships with other Federal agencies to fully leverage their investments in transportation research and product development to address transportation issues.
  • The program will competitively award contracts for advanced multimodal transportation research to facilitate practical innovative approaches to solve transportation problems related to attainment of USDOT strategic goals and multi-modal elements of the DOT RD&T Strategic Plan; to address issues affecting policy, and cross-modal concerns such as efficient and intermodal goods and passenger movements; and to support development of advanced vehicle technologies and application/repurposing of existing technologies such as remote sensing and spatial information products.
  • Research products and results from this initiative will provide: 1. Transportation system applications of advanced transportation technologies, methodologies, policies and decisions; 2. Best practices in planning, operations, design and maintenance of transportation and related systems; 3. Technology identification, modification and dissemination through outreach to other federal agencies, state and local transportation agencies and other public, private and academic stakeholders in the industry.
  • Successful projects will support U.S. DOT strategic goals by applying state-of-the art advanced technology solutions to multimodal transportation issues. The program will focus on research to result in quick turnaround' products applied vs. basic technology development including methodologies, policy guidelines, planning tools, prototypes/pilot products for practical application.

Intelligent Transportation Systems: Core Program [$110M]*

  • *ITS Program funding and administrative support comes from FHWA, and the RITA Administrator provides the strategic direction for the Program.
  • The ITS Program dates back over the past three surface authorizations and is specifically authorized under Section 5301 of SAFETEA-LU. It calls for a broad range of multi-modal ITS research activities to address surface related improvements in transportation safety, mobility, and environmental benefits. In addition to the core research mission, the ITS program is also authorized to address the development of standards and architecture, expansion of road weather data and systems integration, professional workforce development (i.e training), implementation of a national 511 traveler information system, and technology transfer activities.
  • The ITS Program is governed through the ITS Management Council that consists of the Modal Administrators from RITA, FHWA, NHTSA, FMCSA, FTA, FRA and MARAD with Deputy Secretary as chair. With the movement of the ITS JPO into RITA per the Mineta Act, the Deputy Secretary has delegated chair responsibilities to the RITA Administrator. This governance structure ensures that the ITS research program has a multi-modal and cross-modal perspective.
  • The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Strategic Research Plan, 2010 - 2014 is being implemented to leverage the power of wireless communication to advance transportation safety, mobility and environmental sustainability.
  • Connected Vehicle Research is wireless communication technology applied to transportation. Specifically this applies to vehicles of all types (cars, trucks and buses), infrastructure and pedestrians. This technology has the potential to prevent cars from crashing, and to reduce congestion on our highways and roads. This is done by sending messages between vehicles, infrastructure, pedestrians, and bicyclists and using that data to manage the entire transportation network more safely and efficiently.

Wireless Innovation (WIN) Fund Initiative [$100M]

The Wireless Innovation (WIN) Fund Initiative is separate from the core ITS research program, and is part of a government-wide initiative to support the President's National Broadband Plan.

FCC spectrum auctions planned over the next ten years are estimated to produce $27 billion in revenue. The President's Budget requests that $3 billion of the proceeds from these auctions be used across multiple Federal agencies for various wireless broadband applications and infrastructure investments. The ITS program will receive $100M (to be used over a five year period) to help foster new wireless technologies and applications in transportation. Examples of potential applications include wireless fast lanes for vehicle inspections, and competitively-selected regional/corridor test bed demonstrations of wireless applications for safety, mobility, emergency response, energy, and environmental applications.


(In thousands of dollars)

FY 2012
Pres. Bud.
FY 2012
FY 2012
Research and Development        
Salaries and Administrative Expenses 4,701 4,385 3,288 1,097
Alternative Fuels Research & Development 500 500 200 300
R&DT Coordination 536 900 657 243
Positioning, Navigation, and Timing  400 1,000 330 670
University Transportation Research (FHWA) [73,772] [72,000] [0] [0]
University Transportation Research (FTA) [7,000] [8,000] [0] [0]
UTC Multimodal Competitive Research Grants [0] [20,000] [10,000] [10,000]
Multimodal Research and Technology [0] [20,000] [10,000] [10,000]
Intelligent Transportation Systems: Core Program [102,850] [110,000] [96,100] [0]
Total RITA: 6,137 6,785 4,475 2,310