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Columbus, Ohio Wins $50 Million Prize in U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge

Jennifer van der Kleut

News broke this week that the city of Columbus, Ohio has beaten six other cities to win the $50-million prize in the Smart City Challenge.

Cities from across the country were invited earlier this year to pitch their intelligent-transportation project ideas to compete for $50 million in funding. Recently, the seven cities of Columbus, Ohio; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon were named the seven finalists, and were invited to Washington, D.C. to formally pitch their project ideas to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on June 3.

For the prize, $40 million in funding is coming from the USDOT, as well as $10 million from a private grant from the company Vulcan, explained the website ColumbusCEO.com.

In addition, the public-private partnerships Columbus formed to help them win the bid will be investing another $90 million in grants for the project, bringing the total funding to $140 million.

Partnership members including Battelle, AEP, Ohio State University, Nationwide, Honda, L Brands, Cardinal Health and others, according to ColumbusCEO, many of which were brought to the table by Columbus’ new mayor, Andrew Ginther.

Columbus’ winning idea consisted of a plan to “link neighborhoods and improve mobility for residents while encouraging additional growth, and to provide an environment for new and existing technology companies to locate in the city,” reported the website Transport Topics.

To be more specific, ColumbusCEO.com described the project as a plan to “use the opportunity to connect workers in high poverty neighborhoods with jobs, improve access to education and prenatal care, and reduce traffic congestion.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio confirmed Columbus’ win this week, and said he and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx were impressed by how many companies and CEOs the city was able to bring to the table to collaborate for their innovative project.

“Mayor Ginther and the city’s partners demonstrated a commitment to smart growth that makes the city better for all residents. And that’s why I worked so hard to support Columbus’s efforts,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with local leaders and community members to realize the vision of a first-of-its-kind transportation system that increases access to jobs, links neighborhoods, and improves real-time information in a sustainable, safe way.”

An additional prize coming to Columbus is $1.5 million worth of electric vehicle chargers and mobile solar generators donated by DC Solar Solutions, the largest manufacturer of mobile solar technology in the country, Transport Topics indicated.

A press conference is expected to take place sometime on Thursday, June 23 in Linden, one of the Columbus neighborhoods that will benefit from the project.

Plan in the Works for Driverless Highway from Canada to Mexico

Jennifer van der Kleut

Many experts have said one of the biggest concerns with introducing self-driving cars into society is mixing them on the same streets with human-driven cars.

That’s one of the main reasons why North Dakota native Marlo Anderson says he is working with the Central North American Trade Corridor Association (CNATCA) to develop his idea for an “autonomous highway” that would stretch from Canada to Mexico.

Anderson’s “Autonomous Friendly Corridor” would actually make use of an already-existing highway that he says is widely underused–U.S. Highway 83.

Highway 83 runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In the north, it crosses the border into Manitoba, and it ends at Mexico in the south.

Anderson told Transport Topics he hopes to test his idea in 2017 by riding in an autonomous vehicle from Bismarck, North Dakota to Pierre, South Dakota.

Anderson also said he and the CNATCA are working to create a coalition between the six states Highway 83 passes through and Canada to help make the Autonomous Friendly Corridor a reality.

“It’s pretty strong now between Canada and North Dakota,” Anderson told Transport Topics. “This will set a footprint for the rest of the country to follow.”

Anderson told KFYR-TV that he believes the corridor will not only help the move toward driverless technology to progress, but will also help alleviate general transportation issues in the U.S.

Anderson explained, the bulk of the American highway system is designed to help move people and goods between the east and west–but traveling north and south is much more of a challenge.

“Going North to South is very very difficult. We feel the autonomous corridor would alleviate some of that strain of moving North and South,” he said.

KFYR explained that with the Autonomous Friendly Corridor, unmanned cars would be able to deliver goods, and landport stations would be situated every 200 miles for re-fueling and unloading cargo.

In addition, “Drones could come in, pick up packages and move them to another location too. So this landport is kind of a new concept that we’ve been tossing around too, and there’s a lot of interest in that as well,” said CNATCA Treasurer Dave Blair.

The Autonomous Friendly Corridor is being dubbed a “visionary project” by planners.