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The National Academies

TFPE 00 [RFP]

Evaluations of FHWA Research & Technology Program Projects (Phase 1)

Posted Date: 9/18/2019

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
(Budgets will be allocated for specific project evaluations; NCHRP anticipates that available funds are adequate for completion of two specific project evaluations and program management for the duration of those evaluations. Continuation of this activity beyond the initial two project evaluations is not assured.)
Contract Time: 36 months
(Renewable for an additional 36-month period; see Funds Notes)
Authorization to Begin Work: 12/2/2019 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Andrew C. Lemer
   Phone: 202/334-3972
   Email: alemer@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 10/22/2019
Fiscal Year: 2019

BACKGROUND
 
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) “provides stewardship over the construction, maintenance and preservation of the Nation’s highways, bridges and tunnels. FHWA also conducts research and provides technical assistance to state and local agencies in an effort to improve safety, mobility, and livability, and to encourage innovation” (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/). A significant portion of FHWA’s research activities, evolved over many years in response to successive legislative initiatives, is managed by agency research and technology (R&T) program staff housed at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, VA, and other locations. The current objectives and priorities of FHWA’s R&T activities are described in the FHWA Research and Technology Agenda. (The Agenda and other documents cited here are available on the Web; see Special Note E.) The ultimate aim of R&T activities is to support FHWA’s mission through deployment of innovations spawned by FHWA research.
 
To ensure that R&T activities are effectively and efficiently contributing to FHWA’s mission, R&T staff apply leading practices in research management and, from time to time, undertake formal evaluations of particular activities, projects, or programs. The Corporate Master Plan for Research and Deployment of Technology & Innovation presents the strategic management framework that FHWA leadership applies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of R&T activities generally. In addition, FHWA’s R&T staff solicit advice from the Transportation Research Board (TRB), particularly the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC). The RTCC issues annual reports commenting on R&T programs generally and suggesting adjustments to program strategies and approaches to improve program relevance, effectiveness, and impact.
 
Within this context, FHWA in 2014 initiated the "R&T Evaluation Program” to assess and communicate the effectiveness of selected projects within the R&T portfolio. Of the 16 such projects initially designated for evaluation, 13 had been evaluated through August of CY2018 (although 1of these had not yet been published); the remaining 3 are underway.  (See Special Note F.) These evaluations have been conducted by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.
 
For the next stage of the R&T Evaluation Program, FHWA has asked TRB to take a more active role in managing evaluations of selected projects. To that end, TRB seeks to engage the services of an evaluation contractor.
 
OBJECTIVE
 
The objective of this project is to conduct evaluations of specific projects within the FHWA R&T program. These evaluations must be quantitative and indicative of observable contributions of research results to FHWA’s mission and returns on investments of public funds. The reporting of evaluation results should inform FHWA R&T program management and facilitate stakeholder understanding of the value of the R&T program. TRB anticipates that the evaluation contractor will be tasked to work with TRB and FHWA to scope each project evaluation, conduct and document the evaluation, and present the results to TRB and FHWA.
 
Phase 1 of the project will entail evaluation of two particular projects designated by FHWA and TRB. (See Special Note G.) TRB anticipates that the project may continue beyond Phase 1, but continuation will be contingent on agreement between TRB and FHWA, which is not assured at this time.
 
RESEARCH AND MANAGEMENT PLAN
 
Proposers are asked to describe in appropriate detail their plans for conducting each evaluation of a specific FHWA R&T project and for managing the TRB’s Evaluations of FHWA Research & Technology Program Projects program described here. The following program description is intended to indicate TRB’s expectations and provide a framework for proposers’ plans. Proposers should present their current thinking on management procedures to be applied in this work and are expected to describe plans that (a) can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time and (b) will provide opportunities for TRB to review and comment on the progress of each evaluation. Proposers must present their current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach. (See Special Notes.)
 
TRB anticipates that each specific project evaluation will be conducted by the evaluation contractor. This contractor is expected to be very knowledgeable and experienced in the evaluation of scientific and technical research programs and projects, and may supplement its core technical staff with experts possessing domain knowledge and familiarity with the specific technology of a particular R&T project to be evaluated. The evaluation contractor’s Principal Investigator (PI) or evaluation program manager and TRB’s responsible staff officer (RSO) will work closely to ensure that specific project evaluations contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of FHWA’s R&T activities.
 
TRB intends to appoint oversight panels to advise the RSO and evaluation team on each project evaluation. Each panel will have five to seven members selected to represent technical expertise and the concerns of likely users of the results of the R&T project being evaluated. The panel will be asked to review and comment on documents prepared during the project evaluation, and members of the project evaluation team will meet with the panel from time to time via teleconference or in person. TRB shall be responsible for panel formation and management.

The research and management plan shall include at least the following components, milestones, and deliverable products:
 
1. Evaluation Scoping Report, draft and final,
presenting the evaluation contractor’s understanding of the objectives, evaluation plan, and likely measures of effectiveness for evaluation of the designated FHWA R&T project.

Note: Proposers should present their current thinking on how specific measures of effectiveness will be selected for a project evaluation and how these measures may be related to FHWA’s stewardship over the construction, maintenance, and preservation of the nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels; improvement of safety, mobility, and livability; and beneficial innovation in the transportation system and professional practice. TRB envisions the scoping effort will likely engage at least (a) the evaluation contractor’s Principal Investigator (PI) or evaluation program manager, (b) TRB’s responsible staff officer (RSO), and (c) FHWA’s designated R&T project liaison for the project to be evaluated in one or more teleconferences and in-person meetings (at TFHRC). A draft Scoping Report shall be submitted for TRB and FHWA comment. The evaluation contractor shall respond to comments and revise the draft as appropriate to produce a Final Scoping Report. TRB approval shall be required before the evaluation is initiated. they shall
 
2. Evaluation Plan
for the designated FHWA R&T project, describing the evaluation strategy and specific tasks to be performed, calendar schedule, evaluation team personnel, and intermediate evaluation products.

TRB envisions the Evaluation Plan may be prepared prior to completion of the Final Scoping Report. A draft Evaluation Plan shall be submitted for TRB review. The evaluation contractor shall respond to comments and revise the draft as appropriate to produce a Final Evaluation Plan. TRB approval of the Final Scoping Report and Final Evaluation Plan shall be required before the evaluation is initiated. For budgeting purposes, proposers should plan that TRB shall have not less than 2 weeks for review of the draft Evaluation Plan and they shall meet once with the TRB project evaluation oversight panel prior to completion of the Final Scoping Report and Evaluation Plan. Proposers should present their current thinking on such matters as when this meeting should be scheduled, whether it should occur via web conference or in person, and the likely allocation of labor and budget among evaluation scoping and plan preparation, conduct of the evaluation, presentation of evaluation results, and evaluation program general management.
 
3. Interim Report
on project evaluation, describing the evaluation team’s progress on the Evaluation Plan, difficulties encountered in conducting the work, and any preliminary assessment of research project outcomes supported by work so far accomplished.

TRB envisions an Interim Report will be produced when the evaluation is 30% to 50% completed. This Interim Report will be suitable for review by FHWA R&T staff as well as the TRB project evaluation panel. Proposers should plan that TRB and FHWA will have 2 weeks to review and comment on the Interim Report and will meet via web conference with the evaluation team following TRB’s delivery of comments. Proposers should plan that the evaluation work may continue during the review period. Proposers should present their current thinking regarding delivery of other interim documents—if any, in addition to periodic progress reports—that may be delivered to present technical matters affecting the evaluation to solicit comment from TRB and FHWA.
 
4. Project Evaluation Report
, draft and final, documenting the evaluation and presenting the results.

TRB envisions that content and format of the Project Evaluation Reports will be specific to the R&T project evaluated but generally similar to previously completed evaluation reports, although evaluation methods and levels of effort will depend on topics being evaluated. (See Special Note F.) Proposers should plan that TRB will require one month for review of the draft Evaluation Report and will provide detailed comments. The evaluation contractor shall be required to respond to comments and make revisions of the draft as appropriate to prepare the Final Evaluation Report. Proposers should plan that evaluation reports will conform generally to format and graphic standards presented in Chapter 5 of the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/CRPProceduralManual.pdf) and meet the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. (See Special Note G.)
 
5. Progress Reports summarizing the evaluation’s status in comparison to the Evaluation Plan and highlighting any problems that the evaluation team anticipates may affect the evaluation’s viability or timely completion.

The content and format of monthly and quarterly progress reports should conform generally with the descriptions presented in the "Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs.

6. Presentation to RTCC of the Final Evaluation Report and discussion of the evaluation and its findings.

TRB envisions that preparation for the meeting may entail development of a brief presentation on the evaluation and its findings. For budgeting purposes, proposers should plan that the evaluation team leader will participate, with TRB’s RSO and a member of the TRB project evaluation panel, in a one-day in-person meeting with the RTCC, held at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA; the Keck Center in Washington, DC; or the Jonssen Center in Woods Hole, MA. Proposers should present their current thinking on whether other evaluation team personnel may participate in the meeting. The evaluation contractor shall be responsible for travel expenses of their staff and subcontractors.

SPECIAL NOTES
 
A. Proposals may be submitted as a computer file in PDF format, provided the file does not exceed 5 MB, attached to email to alemer@nas.edu. Proposals should be prepared in accordance with relevant provisions of the brochure, Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf), particularly as specified in Section V, “Instructions for Preparing and Submitting Proposals.” As shown in Figure 4 of that brochure, proposers must include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member and 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 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 Research Plan section of the proposal must not exceed 15 pages in length; the typeface used must not be smaller than 12 points.
 
C. NCHRP anticipates that the contract type for this project will be a cost-reimbursement contract with a fixed maximum amount. Specific scopes and budgets will be developed and agreed upon as task orders under the contractual agreement envisioned in this request. Proposals should include example budgets structured in two parts, one part for overall program management based on planning and execution of one or two evaluations each year, the second part indicating the likely structure and magnitude of costs for an individual evaluation. Proposers should present the program management budget with sufficient specificity to demonstrate an understanding of the tasks involved and to serve as a basis for contracting.
 
D. 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.
Note: The proposer's plan for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.
 
E. Background documents may be viewed online:
      
 
F. Through July 2019, the following R&T Evaluation Program studies have been completed, as listed below. Published reports of these evaluations are available at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/lists/008.cfm:
 
  1. Adaptive Signal Control Technologies (2016)
  2. Gusset Plates (2016)
  3. National Household Travel Survey (2016)
  4. Roadside Revegetation (2016)
  5. Roundabouts (2016)
  6. Agent Based Modeling and Simulations (2017)
  7. Eco-Logical (2017)
  8. Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Integrated Bridge System (2017)
  9. Public-Private Partnership Capacity Building (2017)
  10. Traffic Incident Management (2017)
  11. Managing Risk on Rapid Renewal Projects (2018)
  12. Precast Concrete Pavements (2018)
  13. eNEPA (2019, report is awaiting publication)
 
Several other evaluations are in progress:
  1. High Friction Surface Treatments
  2. High Recycle Warm Mix Asphalt
  3. Vehicle Operating Costs
 
G. The evaluation contractor will be expected to maintain a core research team for evaluation program management and conduct of each project evaluation. TRB envisions that the contractor will augment its core team as necessary to provide subject-matter expertise needed to address the technologies and applications the project being evaluated entails. TRB anticipates that the two initial evaluation topics may be (a) “Asphalt Binder Quality Tester” and (b) “Performance-related Specifications.” Proposers may present their expertise to address these two areas but should focus their proposals on their ability to conduct evaluations on any topic within the FHWA R&T range of interests. Recognizing that such factors as the technologies involved and availability of data will influence methods and level of effort for a particular evaluation, proposers should present their current thinking on such matters.
 
H. TRB anticipates that all deliverable documents will be provided in electronic form, for example as PDF or Microsoft Word or PowerPoint files. All documents and presentations should be formatted to facilitate print reproduction; however, costs of printing these documents are not part of this request. TRB anticipates that Final Evaluation Reports will be provided in Word format, edited by TRB staff prior to final delivery to FHWA, and edited versions may be published by TRB. Proposers should plan that Final Evaluation Reports must meet copyright requirements and other provisions in Special Note I and anticipate that TRB editorial staff may have queries following TRB’s acceptance of a Final Evaluation Report.
 
I. 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.
 
J. Proposals will be evaluated by TRB staff, considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and evaluation design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in research work; (4) the proposer's plan for participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises--small firms owned and controlled by minorities or women; and (6) the adequacy of the facilities.

Proposals (15 single-bound copies) are due not later than 4:30 p.m. on 10/22/2019.

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:

PROPOSAL-TFPE
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 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 March 2018). 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.


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