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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. DOT Breaks Ground on New State-of-the-Art Volpe Center Facility

Monday, November 4, 2019

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Volpe Center has officially broken ground on its new federal facility.

At an October 30 groundbreaking ceremony, held by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Volpe Center marked the official start of construction on an approximately 400,000-square-foot new facility as part of redeveloped space in its current location in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

“Today, as the Volpe Center heads into its 50th year of service, we celebrate past accomplishments, and look forward to new milestones,” Secretary Chao said. “This new state-of-the art facility will help the Volpe Center and its multidisciplinary team build upon its rich legacy of research and analysis that is so critical for America’s transportation system.”

Volpe Center Director Anne Aylward welcomed attendees to the groundbreaking ceremony and thanked speakers at the event, who included the following:

  • U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao
  • Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker
  • State Director, Office of Senator Edward Markey, James M. Cantwell
  • City of Cambridge Mayor, Marc C. McGovern
  • U.S. GSA Chief of Staff, Robert Borden
  • MIT Vice President for Research, Maria Zuber
  • U.S. GSA Regional Administrator, Christopher Averill
Event speakers hold shovels over a sandbox
Left to right: U.S. GSA Regional Administrator Christopher Averill, U.S. GSA Chief of Staff Robert Borden, MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber, City of Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Office of Senator Edward Markey State Director James M. Cantwell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Diana Furchtgott-Roth, and U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne Aylward. (Linda Haas Photography)

Groundbreaking Public-Private Partnership

The new facility is the result of a first-of-its-kind property exchange partnership between GSA, U.S. DOT, and MIT aimed at revitalizing the Volpe Center site in the Kendall Square neighborhood of Cambridge.

“This is a fabulous public-private partnership,” Governor Baker said. “One of the most important institutions in this Commonwealth, MIT, is going to have an opportunity to continue to build on the long and successful relationship it’s had with the City of Cambridge and with the Volpe Center. It’s hard to imagine a better win-win-win than the one […] we are celebrating today.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker
Secretary Chao and Governor Baker celebrate the official start of construction on the new Volpe Center facility. (Linda Haas Photography)

GSA worked with U.S. DOT to find a partner to redevelop the site, and in January 2017 selected MIT. As a result of the project, the federal footprint on the site will reduce from approximately 14 acres to 4 acres, and from six buildings to one building—reducing operating costs and unlocking the remaining space’s development potential.  

U.S. DOT will gain a state-of-the-art facility, and MIT will be able to redevelop the rest of the property, maximizing its use while enhancing the surrounding community in close coordination with the City of Cambridge.

Continuing Tradition of Transportation Innovation

“The Volpe Center continues to provide important contributions to our national transportation system,” Secretary Chao said. “Especially now, when we have entered a historic period of transportation innovation that promises to boost economic growth and improve quality of life.”

U.S. DOT established the Volpe Center in 1970 as a federal resource to provide world-renowned, multidisciplinary, multimodal transportation expertise to U.S. DOT’s operating administrations, the Office of the Secretary, and external organizations. Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Volpe Center continues to build upon its rich legacy of looking beyond the horizon to anticipate emerging transportation challenges.

In her remarks, Secretary Chao pointed to the Volpe Center’s role in supporting U.S. DOT’s efforts to integrate new technologies into the national transportation system, including developing guidance for automated vehicle developers, advancing unmanned aircraft system safety, and integrating space vehicles into the national airspace.

“Volpe’s data and analysis provide trustworthy information that helps [the Department] distinguish between high- or hype-performance innovations,” Secretary Chao said. “Volpe’s data helps build confidence among stakeholders, including the public, whose acceptance is critical to realizing the potential of groundbreaking innovations.”