Government & Politics

U.S. transportation secretary visits KC for Smart City Challenge discussion

KC competes in the Smart City challenge

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Kansas City on Friday to talk about a competition for up to $50 million in federal transportation funding. Kansas City is vying with six other cities nationally for that Smart Cities
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U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Kansas City on Friday to talk about a competition for up to $50 million in federal transportation funding. Kansas City is vying with six other cities nationally for that Smart Cities

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx brought words of encouragement but no guarantees Friday as Kansas City vies to be the nation’s smartest city on transportation innovations of the future.

“To see the energy and the teamwork that people are putting into this application is pretty amazing,” Foxx said after meeting with Mayor Sly James, other city officials and private companies partnering on an application for a highly coveted federal transportation award.

Kansas City was named one of seven finalists in March for the Beyond Traffic Smart City Challenge. One city will be named in July as the winner of a $40 million federal transportation grant, plus the possibility of $10 million from Vulcan Philanthropy to support the development of electric vehicles, driverless cars and other low-carbon strategies.

James said Kansas City knows the competition is stiff from the other finalists: Austin, Texas; Denver; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco.

He said the city is confident, but even if it doesn’t win, the work on the grant is already paying dividends.

“We’re building this city for the next 40 years,” James said. “That’s what this grant proposal will reflect.”

Foxx acknowledged the federal government is grossly underfunding infrastructure nationally. He said his department is also trying to fix problems created in the past, like bisecting minority communities with highways and promoting sprawl.

“We’re trying to correct problems of our own making,” he said. The department knows it needs to promote the smartest possible investments and is looking for national technology and innovative models to solve congestion, safety and climate change challenges.

Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, said he’s putting the finishing touches on the updated grant application, due Tuesday. He said the summaries he’s seen from other cities are excellent, but he also believes Kansas City has a strong story to tell.

Kansas City’s application includes three key components: providing Wi-Fi and other digital services along with what will be a MAX rapid bus line on Prospect Avenue to 75th Street, using data collected throughout the city to make transportation safer and more efficient, and creating the infrastructure to support a wide network of electric and driverless cars.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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