Columbus Named Finalist for Smart Cities Grant

March 24, 2016

Columbus has been named one of the top seven finalists among medium-sized cities from across the country in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Smart Cities Challenge.

The USDOT has pledged up to $40 million to one city to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City” and become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network. 

At the 2016 South by Southwest Festival U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the seven finalists for the USDOT Smart Cities Challenge. The other finalists are Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA.

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” Secretary Foxx said. “After an overwhelming response – 78 applications total – we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

The USDOT developed the Smart City Challenge as a response to the trends identified in the Beyond Traffic draft report. The report, issued in 2015, revealed that the nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in regions throughout the country.  It also identified a need to increase mobility options in developing regions.

The first of its kind competition seeks to create an innovative, fully-integrated model city that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods are transported in the future. If Columbus is the winner, Central Ohio would become the nation’s epicenter of advanced vehicle and transportation infrastructure research and development. 

“As one of fastest growing metropolitan areas in the Midwest, Columbus is poised to lead the way in the future of transportation,” Mayor Andrew Ginther said. “As a finalist in the Smart Cities Challenge, we are excited to refine our proposal for a multi-modal method of moving people between their jobs, their homes and recreation using innovative technologies developed by partnerships with some of the best talent in the industry -- that just happens to be right here in Columbus.”

The application was a collaborative effort throughout the region. The application received broad, bi-partisan support from more than 100 public agencies, elected officials, suburban communities, non-profits, social services, economic development entities, and a range of private sector companies.  

In this second phase of the competition, the seven finalists will receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their proposals. Whereas the first phase called for a high-level overview, the winning city will be selected based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city. USDOT will work with each city to connect them with existing partnerships and support their final proposal with technical assistance.

The winning city will be announced in June 2016.