September 14, 2017

Cortez Masto, Burr Introduce Bill to Promote Innovation in Transportation Systems to Address Challenges in Communities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced the Moving and Fostering Innovation to Revolutionize Smarter Transportation or the Moving FIRST Act, a bill that will enhance the transportation systems of American communities through the use of innovative technology. This legislation will establish and build on the successes of the 2015 Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Cities Challenge administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) by expanding the opportunity for more communities – both urban and rural – to compete for resources that will fund efficient, creative and innovative transportation projects. 

“Updating inefficient transportation systems by applying new technology will help our communities become better connected and improve our way of life,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “I am pleased to introduce a bill that will encourage cities to innovate, address their communities’ unique challenges and help residents with their day-to-day transportation needs. This bill will establish the successful SMART Cities Challenge, and exciting projects by our Regional Transportation Commissions, by ensuring more communities can participate, while also cultivating more public-private partnerships that will address specific challenges facing our communities big and small.” 

“Our ability to harness technology and innovation is the key to overcoming the problems we face in the 21st Century,” said Sen. Burr. “This bill will provide cities and towns throughout North Carolina the opportunity to leverage technology and private investment to tackle their most pressing issues. Last year, Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte all put forward excellent proposals to make substantial technological improvements to these growing cities. This legislation will continue and expand the program for 5 more years, giving cities in North Carolina more opportunities to win the Smart Cities designation and funding. The proposals from our fast-growing cities included smart grids, expanded wifi hot spots, and self-driving commuter pods, which were all geared toward allowing data and technology to drive innovation in our cities. I’m supportive of expanding this Department of Transportation program because I know that North Carolina’s cities have even more ideas to offer to make these metropolitan areas more vibrant and cutting edge.”

“Never before have we seen so many new technologies that can revolutionize transportation to create smart communities and improve safety, mobility, accessibility, economic diversity and our quality of life,” said Tina Quigley, RTC of Southern Nevada General Manager. “However, to truly be a smart community, we must work together. That’s why I applaud Senator Cortez Masto’s leadership in introducing this legislation that will enable communities to partner with the federal government and private industry to advance data and intelligent transportation systems. Working together, we are better positioned to develop innovative solutions that leverage technology for the benefit of our residents and visitors.”

Background

The 2015 Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Cities Challenge was a competitive grant program administered by the USDOT that received 78 applications from cities around the country. Mid-sized cities were asked to submit applications that would implement integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation systems that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. Cities, of varying size, from across the nation submitted their proposals, and in the end, Columbus, Ohio won a $40 million grant to implement their plan. 

To ensure all our communities are planning for the future, the Moving FIRST Act would authorize the program, and for the first time, set aside funding for communities of varying sizes.  From large (populations ranging from 400,000 to 1 million) and mid-sized (75,000 to 400,000) cities to our rural communities and regional partnerships (populations ranging from 10,000 to 75,000), every corner of the country will be able to compete for resources that improve the quality of life of their residents with next generation transportation technology. In addition, the legislation will make applicants eligible for additional federal funding opportunities to advance their innovative projects. Whether it’s Wi-Fi access or eased transportation to the nearest health care center, urban and rural residents get multiple opportunities under the Moving FIRST Act.  

Allocations under the Moving FIRST Act:

  • Large and mid-sized city awards: 2 awards annually, up to $50 million for a jurisdiction of each size, capped at $80 million total annually
  • Rural community and regional partnerships: 2 awards annually, totaling up to $20 million total, which a requirement that no less than 20% of the available funding go to rural projects.

In addition, the Moving FIRST Act makes SMART Challenge applications eligible to apply for other federal funding opportunities under other current USDOT programs.

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