Earmarking in the US Department of Transportation Research Programs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - education, mode - rail


University Transportation Centers Program, United States Congress, U.S. Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Transportation industry, Transportation, Transport, Research projects, Research and educational facilities, National government, Legislative support, Legislation, Government funding, Federal government agencies, Federal government


Although U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) research funds historically have been awarded on the basis of competition and merit review, transportation research programs have seen dramatic growth in earmarking over the last 15 years. In earmarking, Congress designates research funds for specific institutions named in legislation. This paper discusses driving forces for and potential risks associated with this practice. Data on earmarking trends from five USDOT agencies (Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and University Transportation Centers) is presented. Some of the issues raised by the practice of earmarking include: quality of research; fairness and accountability in allocation of public funds; adequate support for investigator-driven research; agency ability to manage mission-oriented research and response to emerging needs and opportunities; responsiveness of research program to broad stakeholder interests; and recognition of the critical role of scientific research and technological development in transportation and society in general. The authors support a dialogue among the members of the transportation community regarding these issues in order to develop a stronger and more effective transportation research program at the federal level.


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09658564