Universities Can Compete for $377.5M Over 5 Years in Transportation Center Grants

AASHTO Journal, 12 February 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving advance notice to eligible nonprofit institutions of higher learning that they will have the opportunity to compete for more than $70 million in annual grants over the next five years, or up to $377.5 million in all.

This pool of grants was authorized by the new FAST Act, to support an ongoing program for the schools to operate university transportation centers. The program is under the USDOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, which said that for the first time this year two-year institutions of higher education are also eligible to partner in UTC consortia.

The UTC program supports applied and academic research on national transportation priorities at colleges and university grantees across the country.

A Federal Register notice said the department “seeks a balanced portfolio of UTCs across the 35 to be selected through this competition” that supports the USDOT’s strategic goals, contains different types and sizes of schools and focuses on improving overall transportation system performance while addressing multi-modal needs.

In the notice the department said it plans to competitively select five national UTCs with annual awards for five years of $2 million-$4 million each, 10 regional UTCs with annual awards of $1.5 million to $3 million each, and up to 20 Tier 1 UTCs with annual awards of $1 million to $2 million each.

The grantee UTCs will be selected by the secretary of transportation, in consultation with the assistant secretary for research and technology, the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration and other modal agency chiefs as appropriate.

The USDOT said the first awards, using up to $72.5 million in fiscal 2016 funds, will be made no later than Dec. 4, 2016. Subsequent grants for 2017 through 2020 will be awarded about that time each year, it said, subject to availability of funds.

The FAST Act authorizes $75 million for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and $77.5 million for 2019 and 2020.The notice also said the funds “are subject to appropriations and to an annual obligation limitation. The amount of budget authority available in a given year may be less than the amount authorized for that fiscal year.”

Grant winners will have until Sept. 30, 2022, to spend all funds, assuming the annual appropriations are made available for them.

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