The race is on between Kansas City and six other US cities to win the Beyond Traffic: Smart City Challenge from the US Department of Transportation! In March 2016, Kansas City was named a finalist for a $40 million grant from USDOT, along with Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco, California.
In the initial proposal, Kansas City said a Smart City is about more than just new technology. Winning this grant will help Kansas City connect communities, bridge the digital divide and spark more economic development in historically disadvantaged areas.
“Building upon our existing smart city infrastructure and open data systems, and expansive highway and roadway system, our vision focuses on using technology and establishing metrics that will directly impact neighborhoods,” the proposal states. “Kansas City is an ideally sized city to implement next generation technology in mature and evolving neighborhoods.”
According to the USDOT, the competition aims to 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.” The winner will be announced this month, and could also be eligible for a $10 million grant from Vulcan Philanthropy.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited all seven finalists, and Kansas City had its turn on May 20th. Foxx met with Mayor Sly James and other city leaders in a roundtable to hear their pitch for why Kansas City deserved to win the grant.
At the meeting, the team acknowledged the recent opening of the KC Streetcar but said Kansas City is doing much more by working to connect and integrate the entire city. They cited Prospect Avenue as a model, as the city is working in the area to improve safety, solve transportation issues, and bring WiFi to the community.
Foxx’ message to Kansas City was to be ourselves.
“We aren’t asking you to be anybody but Kansas City,” Foxx said. “Every city has different combinations of things, so focus on what’s unique to your city.”
The Smart City Challenge came as a result of a 2015 USDOT report that warned many cities had aging infrastructure not equipped to support population growth. It cited a need to fix transportation issues, specifically in mid-sized cities like Kansas City.
Now that he has visited all seven finalist cities, Foxx and the USDOT will analyze the proposals and announce a winner this month.
Following Google fiber and our first phase of Smart City initiatives, Kansas City it positioned to score another first in the nation model for providing hi-tech solutions to basic city services that will help all residents and visitors.