Austin, Texas — Kansas City is a finalist for a $50 million award that could transform its transportation system.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced on Saturday at South by Southwest that the City of Fountains was among seven finalists in the “Beyond Traffic, Smart City Challenge.” The challenge aims to help mid-sized cities deal with rapidly-changing transportation needs.
“We’re absolutely gratified,” James said. “We put together the best team — I believe — in the world. There was a lot of collaboration.” – Mayor Sly James
With the award, Kansas City can test new transportation technologies via $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million from the Vulcan Philanthropy. In being named a finalist, Kansas City will be awarded $100,000 to revamp its proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Kansas City mayor Sly James was on hand at an Austin event to stand with the mayors of six other cities that were named also named as finalists. With a broad smile, James waved to a small contingent of Kansas Citians that loudly cheered when the city was named a finalist. James later exchanged high fives with his constituents.
“We’re absolutely gratified,” James said. “We put together the best team — I believe — in the world. There was a lot of collaboration and they have a lot of experience working with the smart and connected city (initiatives) that we’re already doing and the other projects that tied into this. We have a great team working on this and they worked their tails off on this.”
Asked what set Kansas City apart from the 71 cities that didn’t make the cut, James said it’s Kansas City’s current tech projects.
“We have some advantages I believe in that we’re already a smart, connected city,” James said. “We have more fiber laid than any place in the country. We’ve got Google Fiber and that should really help us with our plan.”
Bob Bennett, who started his tenure as Kansas City’s second innovation officer in January, led the charge on Kansas City’s application.
If awarded the funds, Bennett said he’d like to digitize a new MAX rapid bus line on Prospect Avenue and develop new regulations and infrastructure for autonomous vehicles. He added that it also would be used for an expansion of the city’s bike-sharing program and green spaces, as well as improve access to city transportation services. The city applied for the grant on Feb. 4.
“It’d be tremendous,” Bennett previously said. “Regardless of what happens with the grant competition, these are activities that we need to do. We can’t close the digital divide unless I get the Prospect bus line digitized. If we receive this federal grant, I’d be able to do that faster than I’d otherwise be able to do.”
The other cities named as finalists were: Austin, Columbus, Pittsburg, Denver, Portland and San Francisco. Kansas City will find out if it’s the ultimate winner of the award in June.