Continuing its rollout of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has awarded $94.8 million to a wide range of early-stage projects aimed at using various types of technology to improve transportation safety, equity, efficiency and innovation.

In the initial round of the IIJA’s Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation, or SMART, grant awards, announced on March 21, DOT selected 59 projects in 33 states. Grants will go for planning and for developing prototypes.

The 59 winners were selected from among 392 applications that DOT received. Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, the department's deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and its chief science officer, said applicants sought $6 for every dollar DOT had available in the initial round.

Project Categories

Eligible projects fell into several categories, including coordinated automation, connected vehicles, sensors, systems integration, delivery/logistics, innovative aviation, smart grid and traffic signals.

Entities eligible to apply include states, cities, localities, tribal governments, public transit agencies, toll authorities and metropolitan planning organizations. Groups of two or more of those entities also can apply. 

The maximum individual grant is $2 million.

California received the largest number of SMART grants, with eight, totaling $12.2 million.

Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York tied for second place, with four grants each.

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement, “The investments we are making today are about fostering innovations that improve people’s day-to-day lives, making transportation safer, more reliable, more efficient and more sustainable.” 

Among the grantees are more than a dozen projects aimed at increasing safety, including safety in construction work zones.

The Colorado DOT is receiving $1.9 million to lead a four-state partnership to develop prototyped truck-mounted attenuator technology “to shield highway maintenance workers from errant drivers,” U.S. DOT said. 

Grants for projects using drone technology include $430,000 to the California DOT construction division to inspect construction site conditions at two projects; and $1 million to the North Central Regional Planning Commission in Kansas to develop a prototype “GIS-based platform that integrates local infrastructure assets to provide innovative data, monitor asset conditions and inform technological solutions,” according to U.S. DOT.

Five awardees have projects using smart traffic signals and four other projects deal with transit innovation.

The winning entities are expected to use the new funds to set up their project teams and programs as they develop concepts, procure and demonstrate the technologies and focus on acquiring workforces to carry out the work, according to DOT.

The IIJA has $500 million allocated to the SMART program over five years. DOT said it expects to release a funding availability notice for the next $100-million SMART round in the fall.