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How to Initiate Work

Working with the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

For All Customers

U.S. DOT's Volpe Center is authorized by Congress to conduct business through its Working Capital Fund, Statute 49 U.S.C. §328.

About U.S. DOT's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center 

An innovative federal fee-for-service organization, the Volpe Center, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of the Secretary of Transportation. Volpe is an internationally recognized center of transportation innovation and expertise. We partner with public and private organizations to assess the needs of the transportation community, evaluate research and development endeavors, assist in the deployment of state-of-the-art transportation technologies, and inform decision- and policy-making through our comprehensive analyses.

Volpe may perform work that:

  • Involves research, development, testing, evaluation, analysis, or related activities
  • Furthers the transportation enterprise and its future development
  • Uses Volpe staff to add managerial or technical value
  • Has manageable risks

 Volpe is federal, nonprofit, and fee-for-service

  • No direct appropriation from Congress
  • Funding authority and funds transfer must precede work
  • Federal funds at Volpe are not subject to Economy Act limitations
  • Charges reflect only actual costs (i.e., no profit)
  • Work is performed on a best-effort (not fixed-price) basis

A Volpe project manager is your primary contact

If your organization's legal, budget, accounting, or procurement officials need details on Volpe operations, we are available to provide those details.


For U.S. DOT Organizations

U.S. DOT agencies are authorized to employ Volpe through U.S. DOT Order 2300.8, which discusses how to finance activities at Volpe.

How to Initiate Projects

  • Develop, with Volpe participation, a basic statement of work (SOW). SOWs describe the general scope, level of effort, preliminary cost estimates, and deliverables. The initial task of an SOW may be for Volpe to develop a more detailed project implementation plan.
  • Create an Intra-agency Agreement (IAA) documenting the bilateral agreement. The IAA is recorded on DOT form 2300.1a (or another form that includes the same data) and is effective when signed by both parties. The SOW must be incorporated by reference in the IAA.
  • Since Volpe receives no appropriated funding, its only source of funding for performance of work is through its IAAs with customers. As such, Volpe cannot start work until the IAA is executed by both parties.

Approval Time

  • Volpe project managers can inform you of your agency's IAA approval processes and timelines.
  • Turn-around time at the Volpe for IAAs is usually a few days.

Funds Obligation

Funds on IAAs are considered obligated by your agency immediately upon IAA approval, regardless of when Volpe receives cash advances or expends the funds.


For Other Federal Organizations

Volpe's Working Capital Fund Statute 49 U.S.C. §328 constitutes specific statutory authority for interagency transactions between Volpe and other federal agencies, independent of the Economy Act. Alternatively, an agency may rely on other agency-specific statutory authority available to it.

How to Initiate Projects

  • Develop, with Volpe participation, a basic statement of work (SOW). SOWs describe the general scope, level of effort, preliminary cost estimates, and deliverables of the project. The initial task of an SOW may be used to develop a more detailed project implementation plan.
  • Process a request for an interagency agreement or equivalent through your agency's budget or contracting office. Other acceptable forms include Military Interdepartmental Purchase Requests (MIPRs), Reimbursable Agreements (RA), and Interagency Purchase Requests.
  • The SOW and funding document constitute an RA.

Funds Obligation

Funds on RAs are considered obligated by your agency immediately upon RA approval, regardless of when Volpe receives cash advances or extends the funds.


For Non-Federal Customers

Volpe is authorized to perform work for non-federal customers through its Working Capital Fund. Non-federal customers include state and local governments, other public authorities, private organizations, and foreign countries.

How to Initiate Projects

  • Develop an agreement, for approval by your organization and Volpe, that describes the project's general scope, level of effort, deliverables, funding, and period of performance.
  • Provide payment to Volpe to enable work to begin.

Questions & Answers

If you would like additional information, call Volpe's chief financial officer at 617-494-2284, or if you have worked previously with Volpe, call your project manager.

When may Volpe start work?

When (1) the appropriate agreement has been signed by both parties, and (2) funds have been received by Volpe.

Are funds tied to specific projects?

Yes. A project's funds may only be used for that project to ensure compliance with appropriation law and the intent of Congress.

Can a multi-year project be funded partially or entirely at the outset of the project?

A customer may fund a multi-year project in segments, or in total at project initiation.

Are Volpe costs competitive?

Yes. The cost of Volpe's federal staff is below private sector rates for similar talent; and when needed, Volpe is skilled at selecting and employing cost-effective contractor support. Volpe focuses on providing the best value for its customers.

How does Volpe charge customers for work performed?

All customers are charged in the same manner for: (1) direct costs incurred for work performed on their project; and (2) an equitable share of Volpe's indirect costs. There is no profit or fee.

How does Volpe manage projects?

Volpe project managers are accountable for all aspects of their projects, including the highest quality deliverables, financial and schedule control, and when applicable, wise use of contractor resources. Project management plans, program reviews, and monthly progress reports ensure our customers understand how work is being accomplished and that project spending is consistent with authorized plans.

What size projects does Volpe perform?

There are no minimum or maximum size constraints. Projects as small as $5K to over $100M for multi-year projects have been accomplished.

Can large projects be financially controlled at the task level?

Yes. Our financial system readily accommodates task budget controls.

What progress reports will I receive?

Technical progress reporting is negotiated as part of your agreement with Volpe. Monthly financial reports are sent to the point-of-contact identified in your agreement. Additional detailed status reports may be provided by the Volpe project manager as needed.

What happens to unexpended funds on completed projects?

Unexpended funds are returned to the customer.

May customers terminate projects and have funds returned to them?

Yes. Volpe will return all unexpended funds (after all project and close-out costs have been covered).

Is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) necessary for non-DOT customers to work with Volpe?

No. However, having a MOU in place may facilitate initiating projects within your organization.

Can Volpe protect proprietary data?

Yes. Several federal statutes enable and require Volpe to protect proprietary information.

Does Volpe have to comply with federal rules and regulations?

Yes. We are a federal organization adept at meeting the highest standards of U.S. Government process integrity with speed and efficiency.

Updated: Thursday, September 7, 2017
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