DOT Accepting SMART Program Applications

FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 2023


The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday (Aug. 8) that it is now accepting applications for its Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program for the second year in a row.

According to the USDOT's release, the program, part of President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will provide up to $500 million in grants over a period of five years to conduct demonstration projects focused on advanced smart community technologies and systems that improve transportation efficiency and safety.

About the Funding

The SMART Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will reportedly begin accepting applications for Stage 1 Planning and Prototyping grants. During Stage 1, the SMART program will seek to fund innovation aimed at solving real-world transportation problems, and is focused on “building data and technology capacity and experience” for state, local and Tribal governments.

“New technologies like connected vehicles, smart traffic signals, and more have the potential to make our transportation system dramatically safer and more efficient, yet many public sector agencies aren’t equipped to harness the full potential of these innovations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“Our SMART program helps give state, local, and Tribal governments the resources they need to find technological solutions to some of their most pressing transportation challenges.”

The release states that the program recognizes that many public sector transportation agencies face challenges in finding the resources and personnel to leverage new technologies. In response to this, the program will reportedly build in the time and support needed to enable a successful deployment.

The funding opportunity is reportedly open to public sector entities that are seeking to carry out transportation projects that demonstrate at least one of the following technology areas:

  • Coordinated automation;
  • Connected vehicles;
  • Sensors;
  • Systems integration;
  • Delivery/logistics;
  • Innovative aviation;
  • Smart grid; and
  • Traffic signals.

“The Department is investing in new technology solutions that make our transportation systems safer and more efficient. Last year’s inaugural SMART grants reflected this dynamic, centering on solutions in areas like safety, transit innovation, and managing public space, addressing pressing challenges in communities with right-sized innovations,” said Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and Chief Scientist at USDOT.

According to the release, successful projects will create sustainable partnerships across sectors and levels of governments engaging in industry, labor, academia and nonprofits to better meet community transportation needs.

The NOFO is open now and can be found on the SMART Grants Program website. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Oct. 10, to the Valid Evaluation submission website.

Previous News

In January, the U.S. DOT released its Research, Development and Technology Strategic Plan for the next five years, defining research principles and priorities to help guide the Department’s research investments.

According to the Department’s release, the RD&T Strategic Plan supported DOT’s mission to deliver the world’s leading transportation system, serving the American people and economy through the safe, efficient, sustainable, and equitable movement of people and goods.

Additionally, it provided a long-term vision for how research and technology deployment can help transform the nation’s transportation systems, while guiding transportation research, development and technology deployment activities over the next five years. 

Following the U.S. DOT Strategic Plan priorities and objectives, it also called for innovation guided by the Innovation Principles that were rolled out last year. These include:

  • Serving policy priorities;
  • Helping America win the 21st century;
  • Supporting workers;
  • Allowing for experimentation and learning from failure;
  • Providing opportunities to collaborate; and
  • Being flexible and adapting as technology changes.

The plan would reportedly guide more than $5 billion in research activities funded through the bipartisan infrastructure law, including:

  • Providing $500 million in funding to the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Program, to kickstart a new generation of smart city innovation;
  • Investing in University Transportation Centers (UTCs) that work on climate, equity, and innovation—including at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions;
  • Establishing an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Infrastructure (ARPA-I) to scale up research and development efforts to keep pace with and to drive innovation; and
  • Authorizing $50 million per year in funding to establish a new Open Research Initiative to accelerate the achievement of the Department’s priorities and goals by funding unsolicited research proposals that yield disruptive technologies with high-impact potential.

The DOT reported that the bipartisan infrastructure law also included discretionary grant and formula funding programs that provided billions of dollars across the country targeting challenges such as safety, climate mitigation, equity, eco-nomic strength and global competitiveness through technology deployments, data investments, and new approaches to persistent challenges.

These included programs such as Safe Streets and Roads for All, Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program, charging and fueling infrastructure discretionary grants, and the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.

The full RD&T Plan Strategic Plan can be found here.

Additionally, in December 2022, the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration announced the latest round of transportation innovations through its Every Day Counts Program. Because of the White House’s Action Plan for Accelerating Infrastructure, the DOT has committed to expanding the EDC model to more modes of transportation.

The innovations were promoted by the FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration, improving project delivery across highway, rail and transit agencies at the state and local level.

Established over a decade ago, the EDC is a state-based program that helps identify and rapidly deploy proven, yet underutilized, innovations that facilitate greater efficiency in project delivery at the state, local and Tribal levels. The goal is to save time, money and other resources to ensure that infrastructure is built better, faster, smarter and more equitably.

Every two years since 2011 the FHWA has worked to identify a new set of innovations to champion that merit accelerated deployment. The first six rounds of EDC had reportedly yielded several innovative project delivery technologies, including prefabricated bridge systems, design-build contracting, project bundling, e-construction (paperless contracting), safety initiatives and more.

According to the FHWA’s release, the program’s success is based largely on FHWA’s close collaboration with states and local partners through a process whereby states select innovations they want to pursue, then establish performance goals for the level of implementation and adoption they want to reach over the upcoming two-year cycle.

Once the selection and performance goals were finalized, they then begin to implement the innovations with the support and assistance of diverse technical deployment teams established for each innovation, including federal, state, and local experts.

EDC Round 8 Innovations included:

  • Nighttime Visibility for Safety;
  • Next-Generation Traffic Incident Management;
  • Integrating Greenhouse Gas Assessment and Reduction Targets in Transportation Planning;
  • Enhancing Performance with Internally Cured Concrete (EPIC);
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for Sustainable Project Delivery; and
  • Strategic Workforce Development.

Accelerated Innovation Demonstration and State Transportation Innovation Council Incentive programs administered by FHWA complement EDC by providing additional funding and resources to help the surface transportation community accelerate the adoption and standardization of innovative technologies in their programs.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Funding; Government; Grants; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Public Transit; Rail; Roads/Highways; Technology; Transportation

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