State Department of Transportation Programs
State Planning and Research (SP&R) Funding
Total Annual Funding – from 2005–2009 about $700 million authorized
Range of Project Costs – $50,000–1,000,000+, typically $100,000–300,000
Statements Due – Varies by state
A total funding amount of $180.2 billion was authorized for primarily surface transportation programs through our nation’s current Federal Transportation Act, SAFETEA-LU from 2005 to 2009. Of this amount, approximately 1 percent, or $3.2 billion, is allotted for research and is divided among federal and state programs, universities, and national organizations involved in transportation research (Figure 3). Approximately 30 percent of the total amount of dollars allotted for research is spent on research activities that are state-directed through state departments of transportation (state DOTs) through dollars that come out of State Planning and Research (SP&R) funds.
SP&R funds are derived from a mandatory 2 percent of every state’s total apportionment of dollars under certain programs (after deductions) from the Highway Trust Fund. The specific programs under which states must set aside 2 percent of their total dollars apportioned include the following: Interstate Management (IM), National Highway System (NHS), Surface Transportation Program (STP), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP), and the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). Of the 2 percent set-aside from each of these programs, one-quarter of these funds must be spent on research-related activities; however, states can spend more than 25 percent of their SP&R funds on research if they so desire.
Figure 3. SP&R funding from 2005 to 2009
Type of Research Funded
The SP&R Program is intended to direct research towards finding solutions to local, regional, and statewide problems and issues. State DOT research is typically applied research programs. Research activities may include application of new technologies, and what is commonly known as technology transfer, which is the process to encourage the implementation of successful research findings through demonstrations, training, and information dissemination. Some states may fund basic research, but to a limited extent.
On a national level, state DOTs also use their SP&R funding to contribute to research programs and organizations to help coordinate research activities. For example, states contribute to pooled fund studies. Also, states annually contribute 5.5 percent of their SP&R funds to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to support research that addresses problems common to many states. In addition, state DOTs provide more than half of the total funding needed to support core activities of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), such as the TRB Annual Meeting held each January, as well as manage the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) and Research in Progress (RIP) databases, and provide support for more than 200 TRB standing committees. States may use SP&R funds to match Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) funding.
The 25 percent of SP&R funds allotted towards research is referred to as SP&R Part 2, with the remainder being SP&R Part 1. Part 1 funding may be used for:
- Engineering and economic surveys and investigations;
- The planning of future highway programs and local public transportation systems and the planning of the financing of such programs and systems (including MPOs and statewide planning);
- Development and implementation of management systems;
- Studies of the economy, safety, and convenience of surface transportation systems and the desirable regulation and equitable taxation of such systems;
- Research, development, and technology transfer activities necessary in connection with the planning, design, construction, management, and maintenance of highway, public transportation, and intermodal transportation systems; and
- Study, research, and training on the engineering standards and construction materials for transportation systems including the evaluation and accreditation of inspection and testing and the regulation and taxation of their use.
Funding Levels and Project Time Frame
Funds and project scale vary greatly from state to state and project to project. Funding for individual projects can run from about $5,000 to over $1,000,000. Typical project funding ranges from about $100,000 to $300,000.
Each state has a different schedule and process for project solicitation, prioritization, and selection. The AASHTO Standing Committee on Research maintains a Web site with links to state DOT research programs.
Project Solicitation and Submission
Solicitation recipients, topics, and schedule vary from state to state, as well as submission schedule. Some states solicit research topics from anyone; some only solicit research topics from within their DOT; and others solicit topics from partner groups, such as in-state universities, FHWA, and local governments. In addition, some states have workshops/brainstorming sessions or committees chose topics for which they will solicit research ideas; other states solicit for research ideas on any topic. Most states solicit for research ideas once a year, although the timing of this solicitation varies from state to state. A few states solicit biennially or more than once in any given year and at least one state doesn’t solicit for research topics, but accepts topics throughout the year. Also, most states accept research ideas outside of their formal solicitation process; however, there may be limits, such as the size of the project. Of those states that accept research ideas outside of their formal solicitation cycle, some will move those ideas forward at that time and some states consider the ideas during the next solicitation cycle.
The states that widely solicit for research ideas include at least those listed below. Unless otherwise specified below, there is no set timeframe for solicitation of research needs.
- Colorado - See pages 16 and C1 in link; solicitation is generally mid-August.
- Illinois - Research ideas are solicited twice a year, generally in January and June; see http://ict.uiuc.edu/RFPs.aspx.
- Louisiana - LTRC research problem statements are solicited biennially in October (2010, 2012, 2014, etc.) from the transportation community at large for prioritization. Problem statements are accepted any time for consideration.
- Michigan - Solicitation for research ideas occurs every other even year in January.
- Minnesota - Submitters must identify a Mn/DOT or city/county champion, typically due in July of each year.
- Missouri - Research ideas are solicited annually between January 1st and April 30th; MODOT accepts research ideas from external research partners through the submission of a short two-page form).
- Montana - Click here to sign up for the research topic solicitation e-mail list; topic statements accepted any time, but are due annually on 4/30)
- ODOT Partnered Research Exploration Program (OPREP) – White paper submittal requires 30% of total cost in match and a partnership of at least researchers from two different organizations. If accepted, proposals must be developed. Typically, whitepapers are due in October with notification of selected projects in January.
- Oklahoma – Typically research ideas are solicited in October and November.
- South Carolina - Research Ideas can be submitted by anyone; however, all research ideas require a SCDOT champion.
- South Dakota - Problem statements are accepted and considered at any time; there are no deadlines.
- Wisconsin - There is no idea solicitation URL; Sign up to receive e-mail updates on WisDOT research activities and projects; contact WisDOT for more information..
Again, each state has a different process for project selection. Some states have a high level committee; some states have topical committees; and some states use a combination of committees. Some states have a numerical or voting system to prioritize research topics; and some states use a combination numerical/voting prioritization system.
Project Selection Criteria and Tips for Writing Winning Proposals
Key to success in obtaining funds for a research project using SP&R dollars is matching your interests with the interests of a particular state. Talk with the technical staff in your area of expertise and interest in the DOTs; make sure you are meeting a need of the state. Also, speak with research staff to make sure you understand the process. If more than one state is interested in the topic, it may be an appropriate pooled-fund study. As with all research, make sure the research hasn’t been done already or isn’t in progress.
The states that widely solicit for proposals include at least those listed below. Also, unless otherwise indicated below, there is no set timeframe for solicitation of proposals.
- Arizona – Proposers must preregister with the appropriate commodity code(s).
- California - Call for submissions occurs occasionally and only goes out to public universities; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on distribution list.
- Florida - Most requests for research proposals are directed to Florida universities only; occasionally, they are open to all registered vendors or to universities nationwide; all vendors must be registered.
- Idaho - RFPs are issued only occasionally.
- Illinois - Access https://illinois.edu/gm/subscribe/1740 to be placed on RFP notification list.
- Louisiana - Vendors must be registered; all vendors will receive notification of RFPs, which are issued throughout the fiscal year, July 1 through June 30.
- Michigan - Under Research Services in link; proposals are solicited each January.
- Minnesota (solicitation sent to all universities with a Mn/DOT master contract)
- Missouri - Solicitation for proposals may occur throughout the year, but generally are posted in August through October; see project criteria.
- Montana - Link is to all MT government bids/RFPs. MDT also uses NCHRP RFP mail list. Click here to sign up for the MDT RFP mail list. There is no set RFP issue date.
- Strategic Research Plan Projects – Typically RFPs are issued in January with proposals due in March.
- Oklahoma - RFPs are typically posted March 1st, with proposals due April 30th.
- Pennsylvania - For most competitive bids, vendors must be prequalified to receive the Request for Quotations. There are instances that projects are advertised to all via the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
- South Carolina - Occasionally research projects are advertised; see SCDOT Research home page, South Carolina Business Opportunities, and SCDOT Consultants/Professional Services.
- South Dakota - No set RFP issue date; each RFP has its own response deadline. SDDOT relies primarily on NCHRP RFP mail list when the RFP is competitive. Not all RFP's are bid competitively.
- Washington – Proposal solicitation is open to government institutions only.
- West Virginia - RFPs are issued in the spring; notification is sent to universities and other research institutions).
- Wisconsin – Sign up to receive e-mail updates on WisDOT research activities and projects; contact WisDOT for more information; WisDOT also uses the NCHRP mail list.
- Wyoming - WYDOT uses NCHRP mail list.
For general questions regarding the SP&R program, contact:
R&T State Partnership Program Manager
For information regarding specific projects funded through SP&R, contact the individual FHWA Division Office or state DOT.
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