The National Academies

NCHRP 19-17 [RFP]

Federal Funding Flexibility: Use of Federal Aid Highway Fund Transfers by State DOTs

Posted Date: 11/6/2019

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 18 months
(includes 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the interim report and 3 months for NCHRP review for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/15/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Dianne Schwager
   Phone: 202-334-2969
   Email: DSchwage@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 1/28/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020


Federal aid highway funding to departments of transportation (DOTs) changed substantially in 2012 with the transition from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act:  A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). Ninety federal transportation programs funded under SAFETEA-LU were consolidated into 30 new and existing programs under MAP-21. The majority of the funding was consolidated into five formula programs [National Highway Performance Program (NHPP), Surface Transportation Program (STP), Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), and Metro Planning]. While many small focused programs were eliminated as separate programs (e.g., Safe Routes to School), the activities they funded remain eligible for funding under other programs.

To give states the ability to address their priorities, MAP-21 gave states the flexibility to transfer up to 50% of a program’s annual apportionment among the four largest programs. This change built upon the existing authority of states to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes and share funds with local and regional partners. In 2016, the passage of Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST Act) extended this flexibility to additional programs including the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP) and Transportation Alternatives (TA), however some programs still have restrictions on transferring funds.

State DOTs employ a range of strategies to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes, among federal aid highway programs, and from state DOTs to local and regional governments. Limited research has been done on the extent that state DOTs use this flexibility or the effectiveness of their strategies. Research is needed to (1) analyze the extent that states agencies use their transfer authority, (2) determine the impacts of federal aid highway funding transferability, and (3) identify opportunities for state agencies to better use their authority to transfer funds.


The objective of this research is to examine how states have used the funding flexibility provided in MAP-21 to advance federal and state priorities while efficiently and effectively utilizing available resources. The research should: 
  • Provide an overview of current options to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes, among federal aid highway programs, and from state DOTs to local and regional partners.
  • Analyze the extent that states use their transfer authority and the patterns of transfers since the implementation of MAP-21 and identify programs where significant amounts of funds remained unobligated.
  • Examine transfer strategies for federal aid highway funds used by state agencies and present the range of strategies, strategies that are commonly used, and best practices under various scenarios.
  • Identify existing constraints, including potential penalties and restrictions, on funding transferability that impact the efficient and effective utilization of federal aid highway funds.
  • Identify how federal funding flexibility has provided opportunities and challenges in meeting transportation needs and advance state and national goals.

Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task. Proposers are expected to present a research plan that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. 
NCHRP may choose to publish interim work products. The research approach should address this potential.

The research plan shall describe appropriate deliverables that include, but are not limited to the following (which also represent key project milestones):
  • An interim report and panel meeting. The interim report should include important preliminary research results, an update of the remaining tasks, and a detailed outline of the final research product(s). The interim report shall be completed within 6 months of project initiation. The panel meeting will take place after the panel review of the interim report.
  • A final report that documents the entire research effort with an executive summary that outlines the research results.
  • Short info-graphic briefing(s) for policy- and decision-makers on the key research findings.
  • Webinar presentation materials on the research and deliverables.
  • An implementation plan that identifies opportunities for dissemination and moving research into practice.    
The research plan may include additional deliverables as well as additional panel meetings via teleconferences. 

The research plan shall include a schedule for completion of the research that includes 1 month for panel review of the interim report and 3 months for panel review and for contractor revision of the final research product(s). 


A.   Proposals should demonstrate knowledge of literature and research relevant to this project that is both completed and on-going.
B.   The interim report should be useful to decision- and policy-makers. The report should present the preliminary research results including the nature and extent of federal funds transferred by state DOTs and programs with significant unobligated balances.
C.   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.
D.   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 http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf.
E.   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.
F.    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 participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.  
G.    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 (18 single-bound copies) are due not later than 4:30 p.m. on 1/28/2020.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, all copies of 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. Proposers may choose any carrier or delivery service for their proposals. However, proposers assume the risk of proposal rejection if the carrier or delivery service does not deliver all the required documents by the deadline.

Delivery Address:

ATTN: Christopher J. Hedges
Director, Cooperative Research Programs
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered liability statement in order for the NCHRP 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.


Potential proposers should understand clearly that the research project described herein is tentative. The final content of the program depends on the level of funding made available through States' agreements for financial support of the NCHRP. Nevertheless, to be prepared to execute research contracts as soon as possible after sponsors' approvals, the NCHRP is assuming that the tentative program will become official in its entirety and is proceeding with requests for proposals and selections of research agencies.

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