Hoping not only to improve transportation options and lower infant mortality rates in disadvantaged communities but also to serve as a case study for other cities, Columbus, Ohio, has won a $40-million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. It also will receive $10 million from Vulcan Inc., the Seattle-based investment firm led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.
The city edged out 77 initial applicants and six other finalists—Austin; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco. “Columbus put forward an impressive, holistic vision,” said U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in a June 23 press call. The city will build a new bus rapid-transit system, mobility kiosks, motion-sensitive LED street lights, self-driving shuttles and a new transit center, among other projects. It also will deploy connected-vehicle technology.
The city especially wanted to address the needs of communities such as Linden, northeast of downtown, says Aparna Dial, deputy director for the Dept. of Public Service. “A decade ago, we built Interstate 75, which, ironically, ended up cutting off this neighborhood from job centers, access to basic services and amenities. We wanted to make sure the solutions were affordable, family-friendly and multipronged.”
Linden’s infant mortality rate is four times the national average. The community has no OB-GYN offices, she notes.
The city received plaudits for consulting its communities about their needs and leveraging an additional $100 million from public and private entities. “The creativity and the partnerships it put together are remarkable,” said Barbara Bennett, Vulcan president and COO, during the press call. “More than 50 CEOs committed to buying automated vehicles and installing charging systems.”
Industry players such as Amazon, AT&T, GM, Lyft and Autodesk will all participate in implementing the plan.
“This is an aggressive, forward-thinking and realistic program transferable to cities around the world,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther.