A new program aimed at providing $500 million in federal aid for new road technology is set to take place later this month.
Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionary Transportation (SMART), a competitive program included in last year’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), requests $100 million annually for five years for the grant initiative. States, localities and tribes are among those eligible to apply for the funds, as well as a handful of other entities such as transit agencies, toll authorities and metropolitan planning organizations.
Funding projects that demonstrate how technologies such as autonomous vehicles, roadside sensors and aerial drones can be incorporated into transport systems to address problems such as traffic congestion, accidents and lack of options for people to get to work.
“We know there’s a ton of energy at a Department of Transportation or a transit agency or a local government, and we’re incredibly focused on targeting problems that communities are trying to solve,” said Ben Levine, senior advisor for research and technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
“I think the big vision of this kind of program is to seed ideas that are then developed or demonstrated in the country and then they can be new methods that can be adopted across the country,” he said. Levine was speaking on a panel discussion this week at the Smart City Expo USA conference in Miami Beach, where governments are using technology to improve social equity and help address other pressing issues.
USDOT is overseeing the SMART program, and said it will issue a grant opportunity announcement for the grant initiative this month, the first step in the grant application process.
The money will be released in two stages. The first is the planning and prototyping phase, where awardees will receive approximately $2 million each. From that group, USDOT selects final grantees for individual awards of up to $15 million to carry out projects.
The law stipulates that no more than 40% of grants can go to projects that “primarily benefit” communities with at least 400,000 people, and no more than 30% can go to projects that primarily benefit rural or middle-income communities. Areas that are not rural but have a population of less than 400,000.