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Research Funding

Sources of money for transportation research

There are several programs which provide funding for transportation research. But which one is right for you? Funding sources may address specific modes, topics, or geographic scales. As well, the amount of time available to await the result and the type of research activity are also considerations. This website is intended to help guide you to the sources most appropriate to fit your need.



Geographic scale




University Transportation Centers 


Airport Cooperative Research Program

The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) carries out applied research on problems that are shared by airport operating agencies and are not being adequately addressed by existing federal research programs. The ACRP undertakes research and other technical activities in a variety of airport subject areas including design, construction, maintenance, operations, safety, security, policy, planning, human resources, and administration. ACRP problem statements are due April 15, 2007.

ACRP also conducts synthesis studies. ACRP Synthesis topics need to be submitted by October 12, 2007. 

Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP)  

The CTBSSP initiates a number of synthesis studies annually that address concerns in the area of commercial truck and bus safety. A synthesis is a relatively short document (60-80 pages) that summarizes existing practice in a specific technical area based typically on a literature search and a survey of relevant organizations (e.g., state DOTs, enforcement agencies, commercial truck and bus companies, or other organizations appropriate for the specific topic). The deadline to submit a synthesis topic is May 31, 2007.

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)
NCHRP is an applied, contract research program that develops near-term, practical solutions to acute problem areas that affect highway planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance nationwide. The state departments of transportation are the sole sponsors of the NCHRP. The deadline to submit a problem statement is September 15, 2007.

NCHRP also conducts synthesis studies. NCHRP Synthesis topics need to be submitted by February 14, 2007.

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP)

The TCRP focuses on research that is consistent with, and supportive of, FTA's Strategic Research Plan and TCRP Strategic Priorities. FTA strategic research goals that align with the FTA Strategic Research Plan: 1) Increase Transit Ridership; 2) Improve Capital and Operating Efficiencies; 3) Improve Safety and Emergency Preparedness; and, 4) Protect the Environment and Promote Energy Independence. The TCRP Strategic Priorities are: Place the Transit Customer First; Enable Transit to Operate in a Technologically Advanced Society; Continuously Improve Public Transportation; Flourish in the Multimodal Environment; and, Revitalize Transit Organizations. The deadline to submit problem statements for FY 2007 is June 15, 2007.

TCRP also conducts synthesis studies. TCRP Synthesis topics need to be submitted by March 31, 2007.



National Freight Cooperative Research Program (NCFRP)

A new program established under SAFETEA-LU. The NCFRP will carry out applied research on problems facing the freight industry that are not being adequately addressed by existing research programs. SAFETEA-LU, in authorizing the NCFRP, called for development of a national research agenda addressing freight transportation and for implementation of a multi-year strategic plan to achieve it. Problem statements, describing research needs, may be submitted to NCFRP by anyone at any time. If you have a research need that you would like to submit for consideration, we request that you describe it in accordance with the Problem Statement Outline and submit it electronically by e-mail to NCFRP@NAS.EDU.

Hazardous Materials Research Program (HMCRP)

The HMCRP is a new program established under SAFETEA-LU to address needs identified in TRB Special Report 283: Cooperative Research for Hazardous Materials Transportation: Defining the Need, Converging on Solutions. The HMCRP is intended to complement other U.S. DOT research programs as a stakeholder-driven, problem-solving program, researching real-world, day-to-day operational issues with near- to mid-term time frames. In the current pilot stage of the HMCRP, the TRB will carry out applied research projects to improve the information used in managing risk associated with the transportation of hazardous materials.

Surface Transportation Environmental and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP)

This is a new program under SAFETEA-LU. The general objective of the STEP is to improve understanding of the complex relationship between surface transportation, planning and the environment. The 2007 STEP Research Plan was released December 21, 2006 and can be viewed at: Information on how funding will be distributed (competition, agreements…) is still being collected.


Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRPII)

SHRP II  is a targeted, short-term, results-oriented program of strategic highway research designed to advance highway performance and safety for U.S. highway users. SHRP II will focus on applied research in four areas order to meet the following goals:
• Prevent or reduce the severity of highway crashes by understanding driver behavior (Safety)
• Address the aging infrastructure through rapid design and construction methods that cause minimal disruption and produce long-lived facilities (Renewal)
• Reduce congestion through incident reduction, management, response, and mitigation (Reliability)
• Integrate mobility, economic, environmental, and community needs in the planning and designing of new transportation capacity (Capacity)
The first Requests for Proposals in 2007 will be distributed March 13, 2007.

Geographic Scale    

If your research idea has national value, is likely to be of interest to a large number of organizations, and you can await an outcome for two to three years the Cooperative Research Programs are an eligible source of funds. These include: ACRP, FCRP, HMCRP, NCHRP, STEP, and TCRP. (link to paragraphs in other sections)

Other programs that can fund research of national interest include: WSDOT SPR Research; Transportation Pooled Fund Program; and, University Transportation Centers.

Regional or Multi-State  

Transportation Pooled Fund Projects -
The Transportation Pooled Fund Program is a means for interested states, FHWA, and other organizations to work together on projects of widespread interest. To qualify as a pooled fund study, at least two state DOTs or a state DOT and FHWA must find the subject important enough to commit funds or other resources and initiate the study. Once initiated, other organizations may contribute funds and participate including local and regional transportation agencies, private industry, foundations, and colleges/universities.

Other programs that can fund research of national interest include: WSDOT SPR Research and University Transportation Centers. 

State only   
The State Planning and Research (SPR) Program provides a foundation for research of importance to WSDOT and the transportation system in Washington. Each state determines how they select and conduct research. Topics can address topics in any mode, function, or geographic scale.



Results needed within a year

•  AASHTO’s Quick Response Research - Several AASHTO Committees have funds through the NCHRP program to address quick turn around research needs. Each committee selects research studies on an annual basis. This funding is generally intended for projects that can be conducted within one year. AASHTO Committees with Quick Response Research funding include the: AASHTO CEOs; Standing Committee on Planning (SCOP); Standing Committee on Environment (SCOE); Standing Committee on Highways (SCOH); and Standing Committee on Public Transportation (SCOPT).

• A separate TCRP quick response program was also established to address emergent needs in the public transportation field.

To submit an idea, discuss it with the AASHTO member of that committee or contact the Research Manager responsible for the topic you are interested in.

Results needed but not time specific

Programs that take longer periods to select and conduct research include: ACRP, FCRP, HMCRP, NCHRP, STEP, TCRP, WSDOT SPR Research; Transportation Pooled Fund Program; and, University Transportation Centers.



Synthesis of practice
Please note that syntheses merely summarize existing practice. They do not undertake new research, nor do they contain policy recommendations. Synthesis reports are most valuable when they are focused on issues or problems common to many organizations. The primary users of the reports are the practitioners who work on those issues or problems using diverse approaches in their individual settings.

Research programs that accept synthesis proposals include: ACRP Synthesis; CTBSSP; NCHRP Synthesis; TCRP Synthesis; WSDOT Quick Response Research; WSDOT Student Studies; and AASHTO Quick Response Research.

Lab or field work required
Research programs that accept projects requiring field work or lab work (data collection and development work) include: ACRP; NCHRP; TCRP; WSDOT SPR Research; TPF; and UTC Programs.

Analysis of existing information or data
Research programs that accept projects requiring field work or lab work (data collection and development work) include: ACRP; NCHRP; TCRP; WSDOT SPR Research; TPF; and UTC Programs.

Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA)
IDEA, or Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis, is a TRB program to fund investigations of promising but unproven innovations in four transportation areas:

  • High-Speed Rail
  • NCHRP Highway
  • Transit 
  • Safety


University Transportation Centers
The USDOT provides funding to advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through the mechanisms of education, research and technology transfer at university-based centers of excellence. These centers each facilitate a program of research in theme areas. It may be possible to partner with a university professor to submit your research problem statement for funding to a University Transportation Center (UTC). If you are successful in partnering with a professor to submit a proposal, you will likely be expected to provide match funding. To determine if your research idea is appropriate for a UTC, please contact the Research Manager responsible for research in your area of interest. 

Please send corrections, suggestions or questions to:

Leni Oman
Director, Office of Research and Library Services
Washington State Department of Transportation
310 Maple Park Ave SE
PO Box 47372
Olympia, WA 98504-7372
360-705-6911 fax
360-870-6875 mobile