Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology; University Transportation Centers Program Competition, 5516-5518 [2016-01838]

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 21 (Tuesday, February 2, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 5516-5518]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-01838]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION


Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology; 
University Transportation Centers Program Competition

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology 
(OST-R), DOT.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The United States Department of Transportation (the 
Department) is publishing this notice to give eligible nonprofit 
institutions of higher learning advance notice that they will have an 
opportunity to submit grant applications for the University 
Transportation Centers (UTCs) program (Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance number 20.701).
    Funds for this grant program are authorized beginning on October 1, 
2015. In the near future, the Department, via the Office of the 
Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, will release a grant 
solicitation through Grants.gov, also posted on the UTC Program's Web 
site, http://utc.dot.gov, describing the competition and deadlines for 
applications. Proposals will be evaluated through a competitive process 
on the basis of demonstrated ability, research, technology transfer and 
education resources, leadership, multimodal research capability, 
commitment to transportation workforce development programs, 
dissemination of results, the use of peer review, cost effectiveness 
and partnerships to advance diversity.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Kevin Womack, Director, Office of 
Research, Development and Technology, mail code RDT-10, Office of the 
Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (OST-R), 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone Number (405) 954-
7312 or Email Kevin.Womack@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

I. Background
II. Eligibility
III. Matching Requirements
IV. Application Process
V. Program Funding and Award
VI. Use of Grant Funds

I. Background

    The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; Pub. L. 
114-94, Sec. 6002(a)(5); December 4, 2015) authorizes $72.5 million for 
Federal fiscal year 2016 (FY 2016), $75 million for fiscal years 2017 
(FY 2017) and 2018 (FY 2018), and $77.5 million for fiscal years 2019 
(FY 2019) and 2020 (FY 2020) for up to 35 competitive grants for UTCs. 
The FY 2016 through FY 2020 funds are subject to appropriations and to 
an annual obligation limitation. The amount of budget authority 
available in a given year may be less than the amount authorized for 
that fiscal year.
    The FAST Act authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to make 
grants to eligible nonprofit institutions of higher education to 
establish and operate UTCs. Nonprofit institutions of higher education 
may include qualifying two-year institutions (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)). OST-R 
will manage the UTC Program for the Department. The Department will 
solicit competitive grant applications for National University 
Transportation Centers, Regional University Transportation Centers and 
Tier 1 University Transportation Centers as set forth in the FAST Act. 
UTCs will be selected by the Secretary, in consultation as appropriate 
with the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, and the 
Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration and other modal 
administrators as appropriate. (49 U.S.C. 5505(b)(4)(B) as amended by 
Pub. L 114-94, Sec. 6016).
    The Department plans to competitively select five National UTCs 
with annual awards for five years of between $2 and $4 million each, 
ten Regional UTCs with annual awards of between $1.5 and $3 million 
each, and up to 20 Tier 1 UTCs with annual awards of between $1 and $2 
million each.
    The role of each UTC is to advance transportation expertise and 
technology in the varied disciplines that comprise the field of 
transportation through education, research, and technology transfer 
activities; to provide for a critical transportation knowledge base 
outside of the Department of Transportation; and to address critical 
workforce needs and educate the next generation of transportation 
leaders.

II. Eligibility

    A UTC must be located in the United States or territories. A change 
in the UTC Program from prior authorizations is that each UTC must be a 
consortium of two or more nonprofit institutions of higher learning (49 
U.S.C. 5505(b)(1) as amended by Pub. L. 114-94, Sec.  6016).
    A Regional UTC must be located in the region for which the grant is 
sought. (49 U.S.C. 5505(c)(3)(B)(ii) as amended by Pub. L. 114-94, 
Sec.  6016). All members of a Regional UTC consortium must be located 
in the region for which the grant is sought.
    Institutions may collaborate with state and local departments of 
transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the private 
sector, and non-governmental organizations; however, these 
organizations or others that are not U.S. nonprofit institutions of 
higher learning may not be considered members of a consortium. A change 
from previous UTC Program competitions is that two-year institutions 
may be members of a consortium if they meet the definition of 
``institution of higher learning'' in 20 U.S.C. 1001(a). The grantee 
institution (lead institution of a consortium of institutions) will be 
the direct and primary recipient of UTC program

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funds. The grantee institution must perform a substantive role in 
carrying out UTC activities, and not serve merely as a conduit for 
awards to other parties.
    Applicants may apply for more than one type of grant, but the FAST 
Act limits the circumstances in which an institution may receive more 
than one grant. (49 U.S.C. 5505(b)(2)(A) as amended by Pub. L. 114-94, 
Sec.  6016). The restriction is:
     A lead institution of a consortium of nonprofit 
institutions of higher education may only receive one grant per fiscal 
year for each type of Center. Thus, a lead institution may receive 
grants as a National Center, a Regional Center, and a Tier 1 Center, 
but not more than one grant in each category.

III. Matching Requirements

    Each UTC is required to obtain matching funds from non-federal 
sources. The amount of matching funds required for a National or 
Regional UTC is 100 percent of the Federal award. The amount of 
matching funds required for a Tier 1 UTC is 50 percent of the Federal 
award. The matching amounts may include the amounts made available to a 
grant recipient under 23 U.S.C. 504(b) or 505.

IV. Application Process

    Full and Open Competition. The Department will conduct the UTC 
program selection based on principles of full and open competition. 
Five National Centers, ten Regional Centers and up to 20 Tier 1 Centers 
will be selected from the pool of applicants for each type of UTC.
    Subject Matter Focus. A change to the UTC Program in this 
competition is that applicants for a UTC must address research 
priorities identified in section 6503, Subtitle III of title 49 as 
amended by Public Law 114-94, Sec.  6016:
    A. Improving mobility of people and goods;
    B. Reducing congestion;
    C. Promoting safety;
    D. Improving the durability and extending the life of 
transportation infrastructure;
    E. Preserving the environment; and
    F. Preserving the existing transportation system.
    The Secretary will select nonexclusive candidate topic areas that 
will fall within these six priority areas. Each UTC will be awarded a 
grant based on its ability to address one of these six priorities and 
the topic areas that fall within the priority area selected.
    National UTCs: The Department intends to select National UTCs to 
lead research in five of these priority areas.
    Regional UTCs: One UTC will be selected in each of ten Standard 
Federal Regions. Regional UTCs are required to focus on transportation 
research and education (49 U.S.C. 5505(c)(3)(B) as amended by Public 
Law 114-94, Sec.  6016). Regional UTCs must be able to conduct research 
in an area of focus from among nonexclusive candidate topic areas 
established by the Secretary that address the research priorities 
identified in section 6503, Subtitle III of title 49 as amended by 
Public Law 114-94, Sec.  6016. One of the Regional Centers must focus 
on ``comprehensive transportation safety, safety, congestion, connected 
vehicles, connected infrastructure, and autonomous vehicles'' as its 
main research effort (49 U.S.C. 5505(c)(3)(E) as amended by Public Law 
114-94, Sec.  6016). An applicant for a Regional UTC must designate the 
region in which it is applying.
    Tier 1 UTCs: Based on the statute's general selection criteria, the 
Tier 1 UTCs (no more than 20 UTCs) must focus on nonexclusive candidate 
topic areas that address the research priorities identified in section 
6503, Subtitle III of title 49 as amended by Public Law 114-94, 6016. 
In making awards to Tier 1 UTCs, consideration will be given to 
minority institutions, as defined by section 365 of the Higher 
Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1067k), or consortia that include such 
institutions that have demonstrated an ability in transportation-
related research.
    The Department seeks a balanced portfolio of UTCs across the 35 to 
be selected through this competition that supports the Department's 
Strategic Goals, contains different types and/or sizes of nonprofit 
institutions of higher education, and focuses on improving overall 
system performance using multiple transportation resources that address 
multimodal needs.
    Letter of Intent. The solicitation will require that each applicant 
submit a non-binding letter of intent approximately one month after the 
solicitation is announced on Grants.gov, also posted on the UTC Program 
Web site http://utc.dot.gov. The letter of intent must identify the 
following items:
     The category of grant for which the applicant will apply 
(National, Regional, Tier I); and
     The chosen priority area in which to focus research, based 
on section 6503, Subtitle III of title 49 as amended by Public Law 114-
94, Sec.  6016.
    Letters of intent will be required so that the Department's review 
panels, comprising relevant subject-matter experts drawn from inside 
and outside the Department, may be organized in advance of receipt of 
final proposals. If an institution intends to apply for more than one 
UTC grant, a separate letter of intent must be submitted for each 
intended application.
    Selection criteria. The Department will evaluate and select UTC 
applicants based on the nine selection criteria outlined in the FAST 
Act:
    ``(i) the demonstrated ability of the recipient to address each 
specific topic area described in the research and strategic plans of 
the recipient;
    ``(ii) the demonstrated research, technology transfer, and 
education resources available to the recipient to carry out this 
section;
    ``(iii) the ability of the recipient to provide leadership in 
solving immediate and long-range national and regional transportation 
problems;
    ``(iv) the ability of the recipient to carry out research, 
education, and technology transfer activities that are multimodal and 
multidisciplinary in scope;
    ``(v) the demonstrated commitment of the recipient to carry out 
transportation workforce development programs through--
    ``(I) degree-granting programs or programs that provide other 
industry-recognized credentials; and
    ``(II) outreach activities to attract new entrants into the 
transportation field including women and underrepresented populations;
    ``(vi) the demonstrated ability of the recipient to disseminate 
results and spur the implementation of transportation research and 
education programs through national or statewide continuing education 
programs;
    ``(vii) the demonstrated commitment of the recipient to the use of 
peer review principles and other research best practices in the 
selection, management, and dissemination of research projects;
    ``(viii) the strategic plan submitted by the recipient describing 
the proposed research to be carried out by the recipient and the 
performance metrics to be used in assessing the performance of the 
recipient in meeting the stated research, technology transfer, 
education, and outreach goals; and
    ``(ix) the ability of the recipient to implement the proposed 
program in a cost-efficient manner, such as through cost sharing and 
overall reduced overhead, facilities, and administrative costs.''

(49 U.S.C. 5505(b)(4)(B) as amended by Pub. L. 114-94, Sec.  6016).

    These criteria apply to the evaluation and selection of all three 
categories of UTCs. The following additional selection criteria apply 
to Regional UTCs and Tier I UTCs:
    Regional UTCs. The lead institution in a Regional consortium must 
have a

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well-established, nationally recognized program in research and 
education, as shown by:
    (i) recent expenditures by the institution in highway or public 
transportation research;
    (ii) a historical track record of awarding graduate degrees in 
professional fields closely related to highways and public 
transportation; and
    (iii) an experienced faculty who specialize in professional fields 
closely related to highways and public transportation.

(49 U.S.C. 5505(c)(3)(B) (iii) as amended by Pub. L. 114-94, Sec.  
6016).

    Tier 1 UTCs. Consideration will be given to minority institutions, 
as defined by section 365 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 
U.S.C. 1067k), or consortia that include such institutions that have 
demonstrated an ability in transportation-related research.
    Past Performance. The Department is required by 2 CFR 200, Uniform 
Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements 
for Federal Awards, Section 205, to review risk posed by applicants. 
This may be done through such publicly available information 
collections as the System for Award Management (SAM.gov) and/or through 
specifically collected information about the applicant's record in 
managing Federal awards.
    External Stakeholders. The Department will consult with external 
stakeholders (including the Transportation Research Board of the 
National Academy of Sciences, among others), to the maximum extent 
practicable, to evaluate and review all proposals. (49 U.S.C. 
5505(b)(6) as amended by Public Law 114-94, 6016).

V. Program Funding and Award

    UTCs will be selected by the Secretary, in consultation as 
appropriate with the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, 
the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration and other modal 
administrators as appropriate. Awards will be made no later than 
December 4, 2016, with Federal FY16 funds awarded at that time. 
Subsequent Federal FY17-FY20 funding will be awarded approximately 
annually after that date, subject to availability of funds and grantee 
compliance with grant terms and conditions.

VI. Use of Grant Funds

    Grantees will have until September 30, 2022 to expend all funds, 
assuming availability of annual appropriations.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on January 27, 2016.
Gregory D. Winfree,
Assistant Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2016-01838 Filed 2-1-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-9X-P