By: Joseph Phelan, Grants Development Consultant - State and Local Government
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act introduced many new grant programs when passed in late 2021. These initiatives ranged from broadband and electric charging to major clean energy and water infrastructure. A handful of these funding projects are classified as smart city adjacent, but one specific program, Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation, or SMART, is the definition of a smart city grant.
The SMART grant is available to fund demonstration projects with the goal of advancing smart community technologies and systems for the sake of improving efficiency and safety for all kinds of transportation. The first round of funded organizations, announced in March, focused on Stage 1 prototype projects. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded 59 projects across 33 states, providing $94 million in grant funding in this initial round. USDOT received nearly 400 applications.
The most essential ingredient for a successful SMART application is the demonstration of at least one of the following: coordinated automation, connected vehicles, sensors, systems integration, delivery/logistics, innovative aviation, smart grid, and traffic signals.
In total, USDOT awarded 10 different project types through this first round. Below is a breakdown of project types.
SMART Round 1 Awards
Border Crossings- 2
Connected Vehicles- 7
Curb Management- 9
Smart Grid- 4
Smart Traffic Signals- 10
Transit Innovation- 7
Work Zone Safety- 3
Example of projects include:
- Border Crossing: Michigan’s Department of Transportation will implement a $1.8 million proof of concept of a smart corridor for truck borne goods movement across Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge at the U.S.- Canadian border.
- Connected Vehicles: Delaware’s Department of Transportation will deploy a $1.9 million cloud-based vehicle to-everything technology (CbV2X) and optimized signal timing along statewide roadways.
- Curb Management: Los Angeles will create a digital inventory of physical curb lane assets to improve management of the curb lane in Downtown Los Angeles for $2 million.
- Sensors: Detroit will create smart intersections by leveraging existing traffic camera networks to deploy AI software solutions which can predict and prevent traffic accidents for $2 million.
- Smart Grid: In Colorado, Fort Collins will demonstrate a smart grid electric vehicle (EV) charge management solution for their EV fleet, through a managed charging software pilot, a municipal fleet electrification standards framework, and a study on value to city-owned utility ratepayers, for just over $1 million.
- Smart Traffic Signals: The Bannock Transportation Planning Organization received $1.3 million to Install smart, sensor-based traffic signals and monitoring across the Yellowstone Corridor in Idaho.
- Transit Innovation: The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham received just under $1.5 million to convert existing public transportation systems in Central Alabama into an integrated mobility system leveraging cyberinfrastructure, route optimization and planning, service integration, trip dispatching, and more.
- UAS: Kansas will prototype a GIS-based platform that integrates local infrastructure assets to provide innovative data, monitor asset conditions, and inform technological solutions for $1 million.
- Work Zone Safety: For just under $1 million, the Illinois Department of Transportation will develop a framework for the advancement of Workzone Data Exchange-compliant systems.
As mentioned earlier, these awards under SMART are considered Stage 1 grants, which means there will be a Stage 2 opportunity opening in the near future. Stage 2 grants are considered Implementation Grants. The specifics around this opportunity have yet to be fully disclosed, but what we know about Stage 2 right now is:
- Stage 2 will scale out and institutionalize Stage 1 prototypes.
- The eventual goal is to deploy solutions approved in communities across the country.
- Stage 2 grants are expected to build capacity within the community.
- Stage 2 grants will allow for more of an opportunity to play out.
- USDOT anticipates only recipients of Stage 1 grants will be eligible for Stage 2 grants.
- Up to $15 million for three years will be available.
It is expected that SMART will announce its new Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) in early Fall with a November deadline. Stage 2 grants will not be the only eligible funding opportunities, however. USDOT expects to award additional Stage 1 grants, so definitely keep that in mind.