U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology jointly open new John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
Energy-efficient, innovative Volpe Center supports government innovation and operations while boosting local community
BOSTON — Leaders from the Biden-Harris Administration representing the U.S. General Services Administration and Department of Transportation (DOT) as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and others cut the ribbon on the U.S. DOT John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The event celebrated the completion of the $750-million project over the past decade to design and build a state-of-the-art, sustainable DOT facility for experts focused on “transforming transportation for all” across the various modes of transit. Since its founding in 1970, the Center has established a rich legacy of looking beyond the horizon to anticipate emerging and future transportation challenges.
“Since its establishment in 1970, the Volpe Center has been the engine for research, innovation and deployment for U.S. DOT 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.”
“As we manage the nearly 370 million square feet in our federal buildings portfolio, we’re always looking to deliver great value for our agency partners, local communities, and the American public,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan. “This was a unique opportunity to make smart investments in sustainability, empower the federal workforce, and ensure that federal buildings remain vital parts of the communities around them.”
In 2012, DOT and GSA began conversations about redevelopment of DOT’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 state-of-the-art, low-emissions building as a new home for the Center on approximately four acres of a fourteen 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,” said MIT President Sally Kornbluth. “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 percent funded by sponsored projects. Although the majority of its work is sponsored by DOT, 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 percent 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, green and cool roof technology including a rooftop solar array, and an Advanced Building Automation System to optimize energy use.
“President Biden set an ambitious goal for Federal sustainability, and this project helps us achieve those goals,” said Andrew Mayock, Federal Chief Sustainability Officer of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Upgrading our federal buildings to be more efficient and sustainable also means healthier communities.”
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 dynamic mixed-use center, building on the Cambridge community’s extensive 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.
Notably, GSA and MIT engaged artist Maya Lin to create a unique public space and extensive landscaping program through GSA’s Art in Architecture program.
The Center supports DOT’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 important research in transportation technologies and help create policies that will increase safety and protect lives.
This announcement supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Federal Sustainability Plan, which establishes an ambitious path to achieve net-zero emissions from federal buildings by 2045.
To read more about the Volpe Center, check out GSA’s blog.
About the U.S. DOT Volpe Center: Celebrating more than 50 years of federal service to the nation, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s mission is to transform transportation for all. Learn more at www.volpe.dot.gov, and to learn more about our new facility, visit www.volpe.dot.gov/news/coming-fall-2023-new-era-transportation-innovation.
About GSA: GSA provides centralized procurement and shared services for the federal government, managing a nationwide real estate portfolio of nearly 370 million rentable square feet, overseeing about $87 billion in products and services via federal contracts, and delivering technology services that serve millions of people across dozens of federal agencies. GSA’s mission is to deliver the best customer experience and value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to the government and the American people. For more information, visit GSA.gov and follow us at @USGSA.
About MIT: The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.