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Section 4: Research Funding and Budgeting

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The discussion in this section is limited to work which meets the definition of research, implementation or technology transfer and is contracted or managed through the Research and Technology Implementation Office (RTI).

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Federal Funding of State Planning and Research (SPR) Program

Source of SPR Funds — Title 23, “Highways” , Chapter 5, “Research, Technology, and Education”, of the US Code provides for SPR funding. Of the total funds apportioned to states, it authorizes 2% of most apportionment categories to be used only for planning and research activities. These funds are administered and accounted for as a single fund, regardless of the category of Federal-aid highway funds from which they were derived.

The 25 Percent Rule — Chapter 5 of the US Code further states that not less than 25% of the SPR funds apportioned to a state for a fiscal year shall be used for research, unless the state meets the requirements for a waiver of this rule.

Sharing of SPR Program Funds — Federal SPR funds are shared between RTI and the Transportation Planning and Programming Division (TPP).

Obligation of SPR Funds — RTI requests obligation of federal SPR funds before each annual program is initiated, based on 80% of the total Legislative appropriation for that program. Obligation of SPR funds for projects which are not part of an annual program are handled individually for each project.

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Federal SPR Work Program

Requirements for an SPR Work Program — Title 23, Section 420.111 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) requires that the proposed use of FHWA Planning and Research funds be documented by TxDOT in a work program “acceptable to the FHWA.” Work must be approved by FHWA before SPR funds can be obligated.

Separate Work Programs for Planning and Research — RTI prepares an SPR Part II (research) annual work program, including quarterly updates, separate from the SPR Part I (planning) work program prepared by TPP. The Part II work program includes information on TxDOT’s research and implementation programs. RTI and TPP work together to provide any summary information requested by FHWA.

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Funds for research are budgeted under TxDOT's Research and Technology Implementation budget each fiscal year.

RTI develops a research budget each year composed of funds for:

  • program administration (RTI staff and office expenses),
  • program and project management performed by TxDOT research project teams,�
  • TxDOT’s cost for TRB membership and participation in NCHRP, and
  • research contracted to Texas state-supported universities.

RTI funds an implementation program each year for:

  • assisting TxDOT in implementing research results and products,
  • technology transfer activities and support, and
  • implementation program administration and management.

Funding available for research and implementation programs is set by TxDOT administration through the department’s budgeting process, and is adjusted as necessary depending upon state and federal appropriations.

Additional Federal Funds may be used — Research and implementation budgets reflect approximately 80% federal SPR funds and 20% state matching funds. Estimated federal funds are included in TxDOT’s Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) to assist lawmakers in appropriating adequate state funds to match the federal funds. The final state appropriation includes those estimated federal funds. If federal funds in excess of those identified in the LAR become available during the fiscal year (such as through work orders issued by FHWA), the research budget may be increased by the amount of new federal funds available.

RTI’s cash budget is only increased when total research expenditures, including for projects funded with these additional federal funds, exceed RTI’s original cash budget. At that point the Finance Division works with RTI to identify the additional funds available and needed, and adjusts RTI’s budget.

Other Funds — Research or implementation funding may come from sources other than TxDOT state funds or federal SPR funds apportioned to Texas. Including but not limited to:

  • Other state agencies – Occasionally, other state agencies offer to contribute money to TxDOT to fund research of mutual interest, which TxDOT is managing. For example, the agency can recommend that they contribute the state's 20% share to match the 80% Federal SPR share of project costs.
  • Federal agencies – FHWA often contributes up to 100% of the budget for specific research or demonstration projects which may have a compelling national importance. FHWA issues work orders for each project and approves funding. If a university will be performing the work, a contract is executed by RTI in accordance with established research contracting procedures.
  • SPR funds apportioned to other states – FHWA recognizes a type of project called a Pooled Fund project. For these projects, one or more states and FHWA pool together to conduct research of regional or national significance. FHWA may waive the usual 20% non-federal match on these projects. When Texas leads one of these projects, all the expenditures on the project flow through RTI’s budget because the work on the project is all contracted by RTI. SPR funds from other states are recovered as discussed above under “The Use of Additional Federal Funds.”
  • Other agencies or entities (including private institutions) – Projects of mutual benefit may be developed with agencies in addition to those mentioned above. Joint-funded projects with private entities are possible under certain circumstances, and may be performed with strict guidelines to protect the public interest.
  • No other TxDOT sources – Current department policy requires all research work to be funded through RTI. (Such a restriction is not placed on implementation work.) Additional TxDOT funds for research can come only from the Finance Division increasing RTI’s budget upon approval by TxDOT’s Administration.
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