“Since its establishment in 1970, the Volpe Center has been the engine for research, innovation, and deployment for USDOT and beyond. The experts who come to work every day for Volpe are an integral part of the DOT family,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Carlos Monje Jr. “And, after long last, Volpe has a headquarters worthy of its critical mission, its brilliant staff, and its strategic location.”
In 2012, DOT and GSA began conversations about redevelopment of USDOT’s 14 acres in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge. In 2017, GSA entered into a first-of-its-kind Exchange Agreement with MIT to design and construct a low-emissions building as a new home for the center on approximately four acres of a 14-acre site. In exchange for the design and construction of the new facility, the federal government agreed to convey the portion of the property no longer needed by the federal government to MIT for mixed-use development.
“The Volpe development is a unique collaboration that benefits everyone involved,” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said. “Through their cutting-edge research and policy work, the center’s transportation experts will continue to serve the nation by grappling with crucial transport challenges — but now in a facility that reflects the quality of their far-sighted work. And on the acreage opened up by this unique arrangement, MIT will create an appealing new hub of activity in the heart of Kendall Square, a place for discovery and innovation, for grabbing a sandwich, for walking the dog, for making friends, raising kids, and meeting your next collaborator. We are grateful to our Cambridge neighbors for their patience and clarity about the essential qualities of their neighborhood, and to our GSA, DOT, and Volpe colleagues for engaging with us in such a forward-looking partnership.”
The center is a unique federal organization that is 100% funded by sponsored projects. Although the majority of its work is sponsored by USDOT, the 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.
The new facility will replace the center's six existing buildings and surface parking lots with a highly energy efficient, climate resilient structure that will house multiple agencies. The new facility is expected to reduce emissions by over 50% from a typical building and achieve LEED Platinum certification. It includes triple-paned glass, heat recovery chillers, electric vehicle charging stations, a rainwater reclamation and reuse system, and green and cool roof technology including a rooftop solar array and an Advanced Building Automation System to optimize energy use.
The new headquarters fully integrates with and supports the local community. As part of its plan for the remaining acres, MIT will work to create a mixed-use center, building on the Cambridge community’s urban planning and visioning efforts to advance a plan that connects the neighborhood with new open space, pedestrian links, housing, retail, and science and innovation space.
GSA and MIT engaged artist Maya Lin to create a public space and landscaping program through GSA’s Art in Architecture program. The center supports USDOT’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 and more. This new facility will provide research in transportation technologies and help create policies that will increase safety and protect lives.