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University Transportation Centers

University Transportation Center (UTC) Program Overview 

The UTC Program was created in 1987 under the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, which established transportation centers in 10 regions. The UTC Program was reauthorized five more times expanding the number and funding level of UTCs.

On December 15, 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which authorized the Secretary of Transportation to make grants to eligible non-profit institutions of higher education to establish and operate UTCs. The FAST Act authorized $72.5 million for Federal fiscal year 2016, $75 million each for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and $77.5 million each for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 for up to 35 competitive grants for UTCs. A competitive award process was undertaken in 2016 to make the UTC selections.

The grants provided by the UTC program are to operate National, regional, and Tier 1 University Transportation Centers. The purpose of these centers is to advance U.S. technology and expertise in the many modes and disciplines comprising transportation through the mechanisms of research, education, and technology transfer; to provide a critical transportation knowledge base outside the Department of Transportation (USDOT); and to address vital workforce needs for the next generation of transportation leaders. The UTCs authorized under the FAST Act will focus their efforts on national transportation issues as identified by the FAST Act’s six research priority areas: Improving Mobility of People and Goods; Reducing Congestion; Promoting Safety; Improving the Durability and Extending the Life of Transportation Infrastructure; Preserving the Environment; and Preserving the Existing Transportation System.

A UTC must be located in the United States or territories. It must be a consortium of two or more universities. Each center is required to obtain matching funds from non-Federal sources. National and regional UTCs must obtain matching funds in an amount at least equal to the USDOT grant amount. The match for Tier 1 UTCs is 50 percent of the amount of the UTC grant.

UTCs are a vital source for students that provide educational and research opportunities, training, skill enhancement, workshops, seminars, conferences, summer employment and internship opportunities, and awareness in transportation careers.

The UTC Program is managed by the Department of Transportation's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (previously the Research and Innovative Technology Administration [RITA]). Learn more about the UTC program here.