Senators unveil bill to boost tech-savvy transportation projects

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With self-driving cars and buses on the horizon, a bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants more communities to address their transportation needs using new technology, data and other smart solutions.
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) unveiled legislation on Thursday designed to boost innovative, first-of-its-kind transportation systems around the country.

“Our ability to harness technology and innovation is the key to overcoming the problems we face in the 21st century,” Burr said.


The push seeks to build upon an Obama-era grant program, dubbed the Smart City Challenge, which doled out federal funding for creative and innovative transportation projects in mid-sized cities around the country.

Columbus won the challenge last summer, receiving $40 million to deploy three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district in an effort to connect more residents to jobs.

The bill from Burr and Cortez Masto would formally authorize the competitive grant program, expand its eligibility and set aside funding for communities of various sizes.

Large and mid-sized cities would get two awards annually, which would be capped at $80 million total under the measure.

Rural communities and regional partnerships would also receive two grants per year totaling up to $20 million total, which a requirement that at least 20 percent of the available funding go to rural projects.

In addition, the legislation will also make applicants eligible for other federal funding grant opportunities to help advance their innovative projects.

“Updating inefficient transportation systems by applying new technology will help our communities become better connected and improve our way of life,” said Cortez Masto.

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