Even though Kansas City didn’t win $50 million in the national Smart City competition, the city still plans key innovations, especially along Prospect Avenue.
Kansas City had been one of seven cities nationally vying for $40 million in U.S. Department of Transportation money and $10 million from Vulcan Inc. to develop transportation innovations of the future.
It had hoped to use that money for several projects, including building a free Wi-Fi network along a planned Prospect MAX rapid bus line from downtown to 75th Street. It also intended to explore driverless car applications, smart street lighting strategies and other cutting-edge technology.
But Columbus, Ohio, won the competition, also beating out Denver; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
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Still, Kansas City chief innovation officer Bob Bennett said the private partnerships developed during the competition’s application process continue. He said that he is optimistic private technology companies will still contribute millions of dollars to some of Kansas City’s plans and that the city is still in line for some smaller federal grants.
“We are undeterred,” Bennett said, adding that the city still plans to implement the Wi-Fi and digital interactive kiosks along Prospect Avenue beginning this fall. The first phase would be from downtown at 11th and Oak streets east to Prospect Avenue and then incrementally from north to south on Prospect.
That would build on a free Wi-Fi service and a Cisco Systems-led smart technology system along the downtown streetcar route from the River Market to Union Station.
Another likely project will be an Innovation Center in a vacant building in the 18th and Vine Jazz District. It would be a place to promote entrepreneurial ideas and would serve as a center for the University of Missouri-Kansas City and other academic institutions to collaborate on digital technologies.
Mayor Sly James congratulated Columbus and said in a statement: “We’ll learn from this experience and look for opportunities in the future to enhance our transportation system and expand our smart city endeavors to our residents.”