The government's latest transportation initiative is an outgrowth of President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will provide $500 million to state, local and tribal governments that implement new technologies "to create safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems" over the next five years, according to a statement by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
March 21 (UPI) -- The Department of Transportation has announced $94 million in federal grants that will help dozens of communities across the nation accelerate public transit priorities, modernize vehicle safety systems and innovate and expand clean-energy technology.
It was the first round of $500 million in taxpayer-funded awards slated for 59 projects throughout the U.S. that competed for federal aid as part of Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation, or SMART Grants, program.
The initiative is an outgrowth of President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides funds to state, local and tribal governments that implement new technologies "to create safer, more equitable, efficient, and innovative transportation systems" over the next five years, according to a statement by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announcing the public investments.
"Every major advancement in the history of U.S. transportation has involved technological progress," Buttigieg said. "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."
Each project that received a cut of the money was eligible for just $2 million. The next round of awards is expected this fall.
The funds are intended to address a broad spectrum of local-level priorities that have been targeted for improvement, including more than a dozen measures to address safety for highway workers.
Five state-level transportation departments were planning to use the money to improve safety in work zones, while another plan will deploy truck-mounted devices in several states that would protect roadside crews from reckless drivers speeding through active work zones.
Other priorities focus on safety for public transit passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
Several projects will seek to improve the reliability and efficiency of public transportation as the Biden administration steps up efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Projects in Alabama, Georgia, Connecticut, and New York will focus on transit innovation with investments in data integration, transit incentives, and accessibility tools, according to the Transportation Department.
Cleveland is planning to test smart traffic signal technologies, including a new traffic light that will give the right of way to transit and emergency vehicles.
Cities like Buffalo, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Portland will test ways to align roadside curb space with the city's long-range transportation goals.
Maine, Colorado, and Massachusetts will ramp up smart grid innovations in anticipation of more electric vehicles on the road in the coming years.
Some of the money will be used to boost commerce 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 vehicle crashes while also improving railroad safety.
The administration said the program has so far exceeded expectations as the number of applicants have far outpaced the number of available grants.
"We are thrilled to see the interest in SMART during its inaugural year. This shows the important role this new program can play in helping support state, local and tribal efforts to advance technology applications," said Robert C. Hampshire, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and chief science officer.
This year's awardees will build internal teams and partnerships as they refine their concepts, focus on technology procurement and demonstration, develop labor and workforce roadmaps, and position their projects for impact in their communities, the Transportation Department said.
Last month, the DOT also awarded $800 million in federal grants for hundreds of infrastructure projects aimed at improving road safety and reducing traffic-related fatalities as part of the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program that will distribute an additional $5 billion for more than 500 similar projects over five years.