MAP-21 is the new 27-month surface transportation authorization bill enacted earlier in the summer. The program includes three categories of centers: five National Centers at $3 million per year with a 100% match; ten Regional Centers at $2.25 million each with a 100% match; and up to 20 Tier I Centers at $1.5 million each with a 50% match required. While consortia are encouraged for the National and Regional Centers, the Tier I Centers are not expected to be consortia.
Current Consortium Comparison
For comparison, the UTC competition winners announced at the beginning of this year included 22 consortia, two of which are designated for transit emphasis (MNTRC included), providing funding to consortium members at 121 universities. The consortium contracts currently end on December 31, 2013, with the ability to expend unused funds until the end of 2014. Each may be extended a year. An unexpected second year (2013 calendar year) of funding was recently appropriated by congress. RITA has announced that those funds will be released for the consortium program use. The individual consortium funding levels have not yet been confirmed though that announcement from Secretary LaHood’s office is expected soon.
Overlapping the consortium contracts, the new Map 21 three-tier process is expected to begin with a competition in early 2013 with the winners to be announced and, apparently, the contracts effective by the September 30, 2013 FFY end. The original contract period will apparently extend until September 30, 2015 with unexpended fund expenditure authority until the end of the following FFY. Based on tradition (not a reliable assumption recently), Congress might be expected to extend the MAP-21 authorization and the contracts could well run for four or more years before the next competition. How the consortia and MAP 21 processes melds together is surely going to be a challenge for RITA, and each of us, hopefully.
The Course Ahead
The Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC) is considering the course ahead and must decide in time to respond to the next request for proposals, apparently shortly after the beginning of the coming year. No matter the MAP-21 direction, MNTRC will continue to complete the current consortium contract requirements through the end of the 2014 calendar year. That contractually required and honorable approach will not only provide the nation with MNTRC’s best products but also create strong performance metrics to help each consortium university during the MAP-21 and future competitions.
In the interim, MNTRC and MTI continue to thrive. With 18 MNTRC research projects in process, nearly 25 outreach programs complete or planned, the consortium web site functioning well, and the shared education task force developing, all required performance metrics will be exceeded. The MNTRC is prepared for the second round of consortium funding and ready for whatever MAP-21 has to offer. And, thankfully, Deputy Executive Director Karen Philbrick, who is as wonderful a Mom as she has been a Research Director, returns from maternity leave in a few weeks.