State Planning and Research

Total Annual Funding: ~ $204.2 million in 2018
Range of Project Costs: $100,000 to $300,000 (typical project funding)
Research Statements Due: Varies by state

General Description

The State Planning and Research (SP&R) program is authorized by Title 23, U.S. Code, Section 505, and is regulated under 23 CFR Part 420.

The FAST Act continues funding for statewide and nonmetropolitan planning as part of a 2% set-aside for planning and research activities from each state’s apportionments of five core programs: National Highway Performance Program; Surface Transportation Block Grant Program; Highway Safety Improvement Program; Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program; and National Highway Freight Program.

Type of Research Funded

The SP&R program is generally intended to direct research toward finding solutions to local, regional, and statewide problems and issues. State department of transportation (DOT) research activities are typically focused on applied research. 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. In addition, each state annually contributes 5.5% of its SP&R funds to NCHRP to support research that addresses problems common to many states. SP&R funds are also used to support TRB’s core services. State DOTs provide more than half of the total funding needed to support core activities of the TRB, such as the TRB Annual Meeting. TRB’s core services funding is also used to manage the Transport Research International Documentation (TRID) and Research in Progress (RiP) databases, and provide support for more than 200 TRB standing committees. States may also use SP&R funds to match National Local & Tribal Technical Assistance Program Association funding.

23 USC 505 mandates a 25% minimum of SP&R funding must be allocated to research. These funds are formally referred to as SP&R Subpart B and informally referred to as SPR Part 2. The remaining 75% of SP&R funds is formally referred to as SP&R Subpart A and informally referred to as SPR Part 1. SPR funding may be used for research-related activities such as:

  • 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 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 ranges from $5,000 to over $1,000,000. Typical project funding ranges from $100,000 to $300,000.

Each state DOT has the authority and flexibility to manage and direct its research, development, and technology (RD&T) activities as presented in the state’s work programs, and to initiate RD&T activities supported by FHWA planning and research funds. To conduct that work, the state DOT must develop, establish, and implement a management process that ensures effective use of available FHWA planning and research funds for RD&T activities on a statewide basis. The process must also include a Research, Development, and Technology work program, which requires the approval of the FHWA Division Administrator.

Schedule

Each state has a different schedule and process for project solicitation, prioritization, and selection. The AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation maintains a website with links to state DOT research programs.

Project Solicitation and Submission

Solicitation recipients, topics, and schedules vary from state to state, as well as submission schedules. 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 choose 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.

Most states accept research ideas outside of a formal solicitation process; however, there may be limits, such as the size of the project. Of those states that accept research ideas outside of a 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 or research statements, including from out-of-state individuals or organizations, include at least those listed below. Unless otherwise specified below, there is no set time frame for solicitation of research needs, ideas, or statements.

ArizonaAny transportation stakeholder may suggest an idea for a research study at any time by contacting Arizona DOT’s Research Center manager. The manager will assign a project manager to work with stakeholders, develop a research problem statement, and help to identify an appropriate sponsor and champion.
ColoradoResearch problem statements are solicited each July, though Applied Research and Innovation Branch staff will accept research ideas and problem statements throughout the year. See the Research Manual for more information.
District of ColumbiaResearch ideas are solicited annually in late spring/early summer but are accepted throughout the year. Ideas are submitted by email using the research problem statement template. Selection of research ideas begins in April. Research ideas must have the support of an internal District DOT sponsor to move forward. Contact DDOT Studies and Research for assistance in identifying a sponsor.
IllinoisIllinois DOT solicits research ideas through its Illinois Center for Transportation Research Needs. Interested parties can submit a completed Research Idea Statements form via email by October 1.
IowaIowa DOT continuously accepts research ideas from any interested party through the Iowa DOT Research website.
LouisianaResearch problems are identified through a biennial solicitation of problem statements from the transportation community at large. While problem statements are welcomed at any time, Louisiana Transportation Research Center formally solicits them biennially.
MichiganEvery other fall, Michigan DOT conducts its call for research to plan the next three years of research projects. Research ideas can be submitted by email during the call for research.
MinnesotaMnDOT’s Transportation Research Innovation Group (TRIG) and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) seek research ideas each year using the IdeaScale MN Transportation Research Collaboration Site. Submitters must identify a MnDOT or Minnesota city/county champion.
Missouri DOT Research SectionMoDOT’s Research Section seeks research ideas and needs from within and outside the agency. Information on how to submit research ideas can be found on the Information for Researchers page. 
MontanaAnnually, Montana DOT’s research project solicitation process begins with Stage 1: Research Ideas, with the Research Idea form due March 31. If the project champion decides to move to the next phase (Stage 2: Research Topic Statement), a Research Topic Statement form is due April 30.
New JerseyNJDOT’s Bureau of Research solicits research problem statements/ideas on an annual schedule (December 31st deadline) using a crowdsourcing website that was developed to gather and share ideas as a first step in the development of fundable research proposals. Registered participants can log in to submit a new idea at any time, comment on others’ submitted ideas, or vote on the ideas to show your support. After December 31st, the ideas are vetted internally by NJDOT’s Research Oversight Committee, a group of leaders who are charged with prioritizing which ideas have the potential to be further developed into Requests for Proposals (RFPs).
OklahomaFor a research idea to be considered for the next federal fiscal year, a Research/Implementation Topic Statement form must be submitted by November 30 of the current year. More information is available in the SP&R-2 Activities Timeline and Research Manual.
OregonOpen solicitation for research ideas typically begins in September, with Oregon DOT Stage One Research Problem Statements due November 15.
South DakotaIdeas for research projects are solicited during May and June using South Dakota DOT’s online form.
UtahAnnual solicitations for research problem statements are conducted each fall/winter; Research Problem Statement forms are due by email by a selected date in February or March. Problem statements must be submitted by a Utah DOT champion but may be co-developed with an interested researcher.
West VirginiaUse the Research Problem Statement form to submit a proposed problem statement to West Virginia DOT.

Find more information about state DOT research programs by visiting the AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation website.

Selection Process

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 use a combination numerical/voting prioritization system.

Project Selection Criteria and Tips for Writing Winning Proposals

Keep up-to-date with our Requests for Proposal (RFPs).

Arizona
Arizona DOT releases a request for proposals for each of its research studies through an open solicitation process. Consulting organizations, which include private sector firms and universities, must register on the Arizona Procurement Portal Resources to submit a proposal.
CaliforniaCaltrans issues a periodic call for submissions that invites public research institutions (public colleges, universities, and government agencies) to respond.
District of ColumbiaRequests for proposals (RFPs) are posted on the District Transportation Access Portal. Some research proposals are posted as full and open solicitations, though this is infrequent. Most research projects are conducted by firms and universities on preapproved lists that are opened every three to five years.
IllinoisAnnually, Illinois DOT determines if there are known researchers from the University of Illinois who can serve as the principal investigator for each research project. If a suitable researcher is not identified, a formal RFP is issued that is open to any researcher to respond. RFPs for these selected research ideas are posted on Illinois Center for Transportation’s University of Illinois Requests for Proposals website for public response. Preference is given to in-state educational institutions.
IowaRequests for Proposal are posted on a trimester basis to the Iowa DOT Research website.
LouisianaOpen solicitationsare open to all universities and public or private research contractors. Consultant and out-of-state institutions submitting proposals are encouraged, although not required, to cooperate and collaborate with Louisiana universities. Some solicitations are open only to Louisiana university researchers. RFPs are advertised through the department’s Consultant Services Section. Find more information in Louisiana Transportation Research Center’s Manual of Research Procedures.
MichiganRFPs are typically issued each fall/winter. Those interested in participating can subscribe to the SPRII RFP Announcement under Highway Field Services in Michigan DOT’s email notification system. Proposals must follow the Consultant/Vendor Selection Guidelines for Research Service Contracts.
MinnesotaRFPs are issued in late July/early August to all universities with a MnDOT master contract. Proposals are due in September; funding decisions are posted in January.
MissouriRFPs are issued at various times of the year (MoDOT’s fiscal year begins in July). Interested parties can subscribe to a feed of MoDOT’s research RFP announcements, with more information available in an FAQ about contracted research projects.
MontanaInterested parties can subscribe to Montana DOT’s email list to receive notice of RFPs that are posted on the Montana Acquisition & Contracting System (eMACS).
NevadaTypically, RFPs are issued twice per year. Nevada DOT solicits proposals from individuals previously participating in Nevada DOT’s research program and from those who have contacted the agency to express interest.
New JerseyAfter December 31st, the submitted ideas are vetted internally by NJDOT’s Research Oversight Committee, a group of leaders who are charged with prioritizing which ideas have the potential to be further developed into Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Bureau of Research staff then works with NJDOT subject matter experts to tailor the RFP to their specifications and post it online. All NJDOT RFPs are listed here.
OklahomaRFPs are posted to the Oklahoma DOT website in March or April each year. Completed proposals, using the Research Project Proposal form, are due by May 31.
PennsylvaniaPennDOT’s Research Division coordinates with multiple state universities and colleges to conduct research through Master Agreements with the Department of General Services.
South DakotaRFPs are typically issued in November. South Dakota DOT solicits proposals from colleges, universities, research institutes, consultants, government agencies, and others with capability and experience in the subject areas of proposed research. Find more information in the guidelines for performing research.
West VirginiaWest Virginia DOT solicits proposals from private and public agencies. More information is available in a 2012 guidance document.
WisconsinWisconsin DOT annually solicits for RFPs; supplemental RFPs are occasionally issued at other times of the year. More information for researchers is available on the WisDOT website.
WyomingResearch proposals may be sent to the Wyoming DOT Research Manager at any time throughout the year; see agency guidance for more information.

Further Information
Find more information about SP&R funding at the FHWA program page, including a guide for developing a management plan.

Contact

Contact the individual FHWA Division Office or state DOT for information regarding specific projects funded through SP&R.

Transportation Pooled Fund Program

General Description

When significant or widespread interest is shown in solving transportation-related problems, research, planning, and technology transfer activities may be jointly funded by several federal, state, regional, and local transportation agencies, academic institutions, foundations, or private firms as a pooled fund study.

In existence for more than 30 years, the Transportation Pooled Fund (TPF) Program is a popular means for state department of transportation (DOT), commercial entities, and FHWA program offices to combine resources and achieve common research goals. Pooling resources reduces marginal costs and provides efficient use of taxpayer dollars. It also provides greater benefits to participating interests as compared to individual entities electing to conduct or contract independently for research.

TPF studies must be sponsored and led by either a state DOT or FHWA. Within each state DOT and FHWA, specified individuals are authorized to create and post a project solicitation on the TPF website. Typically, the authorized user is the AASHTO Research Advisory Committee (RAC) member in the state DOT. Regional or local transportation agencies, private companies, foundations, and colleges/universities may partner with any or all of the sponsoring agencies to conduct pooled fund projects.

Type of Research Funded

To qualify as a pooled fund study, more than one state transportation agency and/or federal agency must find the subject important enough to pledge funds or other resources to conduct the research, planning, and/or technology innovation activity. The proposed work must also be documented in the state’s work program.

Local agencies, municipalities, metropolitan planning organizations, transportation organizations, colleges and universities, and private organizations are welcome to participate as a partner in the funding of pooled fund projects and the sharing of research results.

If the subject has been previously studied, the proposed project must provide new information that will complement or advance previous investigations of the subject matter.

Funding Levels and Project Time Frame

Project funding levels vary. Within the TPF Program, the typical source of funding is State Planning and Research (SP&R) Subpart B funds. The normal match for SP&R Subpart B funds is at least 20% of non-federal funds. Maximum participation of 80% federal funding is required unless a waiver is requested and approved to use 100% Federal-Aid SP&R Subpart B funds. Most TPF participants obtain a match waiver and use SP&R Subpart B funds for 100% of the TPF funding. 

Lead agencies may advertise through a request for proposal for someone to conduct a study in a particular program area.

Project Solicitation and Submission

TPF studies must be led by either a state DOT or FHWA. Within these agencies, specific individuals are authorized to post a solicitation on the TPF website. Typically, AASHTO RAC members in a state DOT are authorized to post a solicitation on behalf of their agencies. FHWA program offices and the TPF Program Manager are authorized to post project solicitations on behalf of FHWA.


Selection Process

The process to approve the proposed project and (if requested) the use of 100% SP&R funding typically takes three to four weeks. Projects are initiated throughout the year. Each state has a different process for project selection.

Note:   A solicitation number will be assigned by the TPF website when the solicitation is entered. Once a sufficient level of commitment has been received to cover the estimated cost of the proposed project, a Pooled Fund Project Number will be assigned by the Pooled Fund Program Office at FHWA.


Further Information

Find more information about participating in the Transportation Pooled Fund Program at the TPF website.

Contact

Tricia Sergeson

Transportation Pooled Fund Program Manager     

Federal Highway Administration

Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center

202-493-3166