The National Academies

NCHRP 08-131 [RFP]

Access to Jobs, Economic Opportunities, and Education in Rural Areas

Posted Date: 2/3/2020

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Contract Time: 18 months
(includes 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the Phase I report and 3 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 6/1/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Lawrence D. Goldstein
   Phone: (202)334-1866
   Email: lgoldstein@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 4/27/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020


Rural and remote areas often have limited transportation connections, contributing to isolation.  Intercity bus service to small cities is sparse, and rural road conditions are often less than ideal. Commercial and social services suffer from diseconomies of scale, leading to higher costs or a decline in service diversity.  Rural and remote communities are particularly disadvantaged.  Even moderate-sized cities with stable populations find retaining or attracting workers a challenge as trained workers, especially in technical disciplines, gravitate to large urban areas in search of broader and more lucrative opportunities and improved quality of life.  Lack of access and connectivity places rural and remote areas at a disadvantage.

Compounding this problem are economic trends impacting rural and remote areas.  More and more, employment is concentrated into a limited number of expanding urban areas, with manufacturing employment in rural areas continuing to decline.  Relatively speaking, manufacturing is more important to the rural economy than it is to the urban economy; and the decreasing number of manufacturing jobs is increasing the demand for access to alternative employment opportunities in larger geographic areas (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service).  Even when workers from rural and remote areas equip themselves with the skills required by the modern economy, they are often forced to travel or move to locations where jobs are concentrated and available.  In some cases, these pressures have created a situation where once vibrant small towns are losing population and suffering. 

In other cases, corporations are moving to rural areas to decrease costs, attracting professionals who are looking for an expanded range of services to support a different lifestyle.  Affected agencies—economic development, transportation, and land use—are seeking to find solutions to address these trends or at least provide rural and remote areas with the tools to help them participate more fully in the benefits of the global economy.  Considering access and connectivity during project identification and prioritization can help support positive economic development outcomes and improved quality of life.  Transportation agencies, in coordination with organizations charged with economic development, those providing social services, and private sector entities, need solutions to rural livability concerns. 

Transportation agencies are often aware of the isolation and access challenges their communities face but may not have adequate funding, needed data, analytical methods, or processes in place to respond when making investment decisions.  As a result, issues related to equity when it comes to investment in infrastructure improvements for rural versus urban areas need to be addressed.  Improved access and connectivity may be part of a transportation agency’s mission and vision, but rarely are investment priorities aligned with the objective of improving access to and mobility within rural and remote areas.  A strategic approach for including rural area access and mobility issues in the statewide transportation planning process would be useful in making more effective and equitable investment decisions.


The objective of this research is to prepare guidelines for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other public and private organizations involved in rural development and the provision of transportation services.  These guidelines should address a range of components, building on a variety of examples of how agencies currently implement rural and remote access and connectivity programs:

  1. Reviewing existing methods to measure access and connectivity, the data available, the data required, and what is missing;
  2. Achieving equity in urban versus rural investment strategies;
  3. Measuring economic effects and return on investment as a function of right-sizing investment strategies;
  4. Developing a systematic approach to evaluating how rural communities are impacted by current investment in transportation, including difficulty in attracting and retaining economic activity and accessing employment, education, health services, housing, and other critical social and economic services as a measure of and contribution to quality of life; and
  5. Designing, maintaining, and implementing innovative funding, financing, and investment strategies; and
  6. Considering and evaluating institutional relationships, applications of new and emerging technologies, and partnerships needed to respond effectively. 


Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective.  Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including demonstrating how proposed research will make use of and build on current requirements and practices.  Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objective, including prioritizing critical issues. 

The research plan should (1) include a kick-off web conference to review the amplified work plan with the NCHRP project panel, convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address how the proposer intends to satisfy the project objective; (3) be divided logically into two phases encompassing specific detailed tasks for each phase that are necessary to fulfill the research objectives, including appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; and (4) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment on, and approve milestone deliverables.  

The research plan should delineate the tasks required to understand access and connectivity challenges in rural and remote environments, concentrating on attracting and retaining economic activity, employment, education, health services, housing, and other critical social and economic services.  The research plan should also include a review of other related studies in general and NCHRP, TCRP, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and FHWA research studies in particular.  The products of this research should provide state DOTs and others with reliable and valid approaches to help make rational decisions about transportation expenditures and investments that improve quality of life in rural and remote communities. 

To meet the objectives of this study, state DOTs and other transportation service providers and planning agencies need detailed guidelines to define critical areas of concern and how to identify, obtain, and develop information to support effective decision making.  At a minimum, these guidelines should address the following key areas of concern:

1.    Quality and availability of the supporting infrastructure;

2.    Funding and financial resources;

3.    Institutional structures;

4.    Impact of surrounding geography, economic conditions, and demographics;

5.    Community support; and

6.    Outcome evaluation metrics.

Phase I

Work in Phase I will include the following:

1.    A detailed review of the literature and other resources on existing approaches to identifying and resolving access problems and improving connectivity for rural and remote communities;

2.    Review and analysis of strategies for measuring how rural communities are impacted by investment in transportation, identifying tools and techniques for measuring returns on investment in programs to improve access for rural and remote communities;

3.    Case studies documenting selected state DOT, transportation service provider, and planning agency programs currently in use to enhance access in rural and remote areas to economic activity, employment, education, health services, housing, and other critical social and economic services in the context of changing demographics and land use patterns (the panel will have a role in helping to select the case studies);

4.    Strategies for coordinating efforts by federal, state, and local stakeholder organizations—both public and private—to develop plans and procedures for meeting rural challenges:

a.    What data and information is required to structure a successful decision-making process?

b.    What resources are needed?

c.    What are the barriers to successful outcomes and how to avoid them?

The work accomplished in Phase I will result in an interim report that describes the steps necessary to analyze and understand rural and remote area access requirements and  investment needs for access and connectivity improvements.  The steps delineated as a result of Phase I will be expanded into detailed guidelines in Phase II.

The interim report will include a refined scope of work for developing the required guidelines in Phase II.  The panel will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review the interim report.  NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before proceeding with Phase II.   

Phase II

Using the products of Phase I, work in Phase II will develop detailed guidelines for identifying procedures, methods, resources, tools and techniques for improving transportation access to rural and remote communities.  Work in Phase II will also include examples of effective collaboration efforts to share concerns and opportunities for access improvement with affected state DOTs, transportation service providers and planning agencies, and other stakeholders.

Final deliverables of Phase II will include at a minimum:

·         Guidelines for state DOTs, transportation service providers and planning agencies, and other transportation and development agencies on making effective transportation expenditures and investments and partnerships that improve access and connectivity for rural and remote communities, including how to define and measure access as input to prioritization and decision-making processes;

·         Communication and outreach material aimed at state DOTs and others that explain why the integration approach and supporting guidance are helpful and how they will be applied; and

·         A stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note B).

The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date; (2) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting to be held at the end of Phase I; and (3) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Note: The cost of teleconferences, in-person meeting venue, and NCHRP panel member travel will be paid by NCHRP.


A. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals"  (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

B. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at


C. Item 5 in the proposal, "Qualifications of the Research Team," must include a section labeled "Disclosure." Information relevant to the NCHRP's need to ensure objectivity and to be aware of possible sources of significant financial or organizational conflict of interest in conducting the research must be presented in this section of the proposal. For example, under certain conditions, ownership of the proposing agency, other organizational relationships, or proprietary rights and interests could be perceived as jeopardizing an objective approach to the research effort, and proposers are asked to disclose any such circumstances and to explain how they will be accounted for in this study. If there are no issues related to objectivity, this should be stated.

D. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.

E. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­


Proposals should be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/QIJU9K2MoGatFo4NnH4Z
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. on 4/27/2020.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a printable version of the Liability Statement (pdf). A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at http://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (updated July 2019). Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected. This brochure is available here.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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