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U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Celebrates Groundbreaking of New John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Innovative Land Swap Includes GSA, MIT, City of Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE, MA – U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today celebrated the official groundbreaking of the new U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) John A. Volpe Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Secretary Chao was joined by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern, U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Chief of Staff Robert Borden, U.S. Senator Edward Markey’s State Director James Cantwell, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Vice President for Research Maria Zuber for the groundbreaking ceremony.   

“This new facility will provide important research in transportation technologies, and help create policies that will increase safety and protect lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The Volpe Center currently occupies approximately 14 acres of land in the Kendall Square section of the city.  Following the conclusion of a two-phase solicitation process, GSA entered into an Exchange Agreement with MIT, which will pay $750 million to design and construct a state-of-the-art-facility for Volpe on approximately four acres. In exchange, the portion of the property no longer needed by the federal government will be conveyed to MIT for mixed-use development.

“GSA is proud to provide our partners at the Department of Transportation with this impressive facility that serves USDOT’s vital mission of providing the US the safest, most efficient, and modern transportation system in the world, while saving hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers,” said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. "GSA’s innovative real estate solution converts an underused and outdated asset into a state of the art research facility and an economic engine for the community."

The new facility will replace Volpe’s six existing buildings and surface parking lots with an energy efficient structure accompanied by underground parking and approximately 100 bicycle parking spaces.  The new facility will meet LEED Gold v.4 standards, focusing on sustainability.  

“The Volpe Center’s multidisciplinary workforce supports all facets of the Department of Transportation’s mission, including safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems and commercial space vehicles into the National Airspace System; developing, testing, and evaluating automated mobility applications; and ensuring the safety and reliability of terrestrial-based global positioning systems – to give just a few examples. No other center can match Volpe’s impressive concentration of multimodal transportation expertise,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology.

A leader in transportation systems, analysis, and innovation, the USDOT’s Volpe Center is flexible and responsive to the needs and strategic goals of the Department and the priorities of the Secretary of Transportation.  The Volpe Center is a unique federal organization that is 100% funded by sponsored projects. Although the majority of its work is sponsored by USDOT, the Volpe Center also lends key technical support to over a dozen other federal agencies including the Department of Defense, NASA, Department of the Interior, and Department of Homeland Security, as well as state and local governments.  Since its founding in 1970, the Volpe Center has established a rich legacy of looking beyond the horizon to anticipate emerging and future transportation challenges.

“This innovative opportunity will allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen the Volpe Center’s technical capabilities at no cost to taxpayers and continue our important work,” said Volpe Center Director Anne Aylward.  “For 50 years, the Volpe Center’s extensive cross-modal partnerships have led to innovative solutions that advance national and global transportation systems for the public good.  We look forward to working with the transportation enterprise to meet the nation’s current and future needs and priorities.”

As part of the federal government’s Art in Architecture program, which commissions artworks for new buildings nationwide, the new building will feature an art piece designed by Maya Lin integrated into the landscape on the east side of the site, adjacent to Fifth Street.


DOT 70-19