March 21 (UPI) — The Department of Transportation announced $94 million in federal grants to help dozens of communities across the country accelerate public transit priorities, upgrade vehicle safety systems, and innovate and expand clean energy technologies.
This was the first round of $500 million in taxpayer funded awards. 59 projects throughout the United States who competed for federal assistance through the Enhanced Mobility and Transportation Revolution, or SMART Grants program.
The initiative is the result of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, which provides funds to state, local, and tribal governments to implement new technologies “to create safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems.” over the next five years. according to transport minister Pete Buttigieg announcing the government investment.
“Every major achievement in the history of US transportation is due to technological advances,” Buttigieg said. “The investments we are making today are aimed at encouraging innovations that improve people’s daily lives by making transport safer, more reliable, more efficient and more sustainable.”
Each project that received a portion of the money was eligible to receive a total of $2 million. The next round of awards is expected this fall.
The funds are intended to address a wide range of local priorities that need to be improved, including more than a dozen measures to keep road workers safe.
Five state transportation departments planned to use the money to improve safety in work zones, while another plan sees the deployment of truck-mounted devices in several states that will protect roadside crews from reckless drivers passing through active work zones.
Other priorities focus on the safety of public transport passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
Several projects will focus on making public transportation more reliable and efficient as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Projects in Alabama, Georgia, Connecticut and New York will focus on transportation innovation with investments in data integration, transit incentives and accessibility tools, according to the Department of Transportation.
Cleveland plans to test smart traffic light technology, including a new traffic light that will give transit and emergency vehicles the right of way.
Cities such as Buffalo, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Portland will be testing ways to align roadside space with the city’s long-distance transportation goals.
Maine, Colorado, and Massachusetts will ramp up smart grid innovation in anticipation of more electric vehicles on the roads in the coming years.
Some of the money will be used to develop trade at international border crossings while strengthening supply chains.
New data collection technologies will be developed in Harris County, Texas, Nashville and Seattle to track floods and car accidents and improve railroad safety.
The administration said the program has so far exceeded expectations as the number of applicants has far exceeded the number of grants available.
“We are very pleased to see interest in SMART in its first year of existence. It shows the important role this new program can play in supporting state, local, and tribal efforts to advance technology applications,” said Robert S. Hampshire, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. for Research and Technology and Chief Scientist.
This year, the winners will build internal teams and partnerships as they refine their concepts, focus on technology procurement and demonstration, develop workforce roadmaps, and position their projects to impact their communities, the Department of Transportation said.
Last month, DOT also awarded $800 million in federal grants to hundreds of infrastructure projects to improve road safety and reduce traffic deaths through the Safe Streets and Highways for All Grant Program, which will an additional $5 billion has been allocated for more than 500 such projects over five years.