Delaware County commissioners support Columbus’ ‘Smart City’ grant bid


By Gary Budzak - gbudzak@civitasmedia.com



Delaware County commissioners hope Ohio’s capital will win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Smart City Challenge.”

If it were to win, Columbus could receive up to $40 million in funding, some of which commissioners here would like to see used in Delaware County.

“The theory is it will benefit the region,” said Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell Thursday.

“The whole Polaris area needs help, and we all travel to Columbus,” said Commissioner President Barb Lewis.

Commissioners approved a letter of support for the city of Columbus’ grant application after hearing a presentation from Nancy Reger of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. Reger said she was representing Columbus.

“The idea is that mid-sized cities (a population between 250,000 and 850,000) can apply for this grant,” Reger said. “The big idea is to use technology to preserve the transportation system to make good use of the infrastructure we already have.”

“We should be supportive of it,” said Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s website said the winning city will be one “that puts forward bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier and more reliable.” Among the buzzwords the U.S. Department of Transportation uses is “connected vehicles,” “automated vehicles” and “Intelligent Transportation Systems.”

In addition to the $40 million, Vulcan Philanthropy, founded by Paul G. Allen, may offer up to $10 million for the city to deploy electric vehicles.

The funding could also go towards things like vehicle alert systems that can warn motorists of a crash in the vicinity; alleviating congestion at Polaris; or keeping semi-trucks on the interstates, Reger said.

“We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully-integrated, forward-looking transportation network looks like,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a statement.

The first round of applications are due on Feb. 4. The five finalists will be announced in March, with the winning city named in June.

The Smart City Challenge is derived from a report called “Beyond Traffic.” The U.S. Department of Transportation said the report “reveals that our nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in new regions throughout the country and the need for increased mobility options in developing mega-regions.”

“On behalf of Columbus, they are so appreciative that you are willing to support this,” Reger said to local commissioners. “They’re a growing city in a non-growing part of the country. There’s a chance they could win.”

The 2010 population of Columbus is 786,411. The state’s other challenge-eligible cities are Cleveland at 396,815; Cincinnati at 296,943; and Toledo at 287,208.

By Gary Budzak

gbudzak@civitasmedia.com

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.