December 7, 2015 4:30 PM, EST

Foxx Announces Smart City Challenge

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Cities with populations between 200,000 and 850,000 can compete for $50 million in transportation funding in the Smart City Challenge, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on Dec. 7.

“While we are grateful that Congress passed a five-year [transportation funding] bill last week, our national vision for transportation is still very much constrained by 20th century thinking about technology and the integration of technology in transportation,” Foxx said.

Under Foxx, DOT is trying to help change that on the local level. Hence the Smart City Challenge, which is funded by up to $40 million in Federal Highway Administration money and $10 million from the department’s private sector partner, Vulcan Inc. The five cities that submit applications by Feb. 4 with the most innovative plans to harness technology that helps develop new mobility strategies will be chosen in May, with the winner announced in June.

“We can do things that previous generations only imagined as science fiction,” said Foxx, who noted that he expects the Obama administration to announce its rule on vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity before it leaves office in January 2017. “We are imagining connected and autonomous vehicles that practically eliminate crashes. And we’re imagining this technology interacting with wired infrastructure to eliminate traffic jams. We’re not only imagining it happening. We’re making it happen.”

However, Foxx said that after “pushing as hard we could” for such technological change on the national level, DOT is now turning to the local level.

“America will add 70 million more people over the next 30 years, and our cities will absorb most of this growth,” said Foxx, formerly the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. “The 21st century won’t be dominated by any one country. It will, in fact, be dominated by urbanization.”

Given that belief, Foxx wants midsize American cities to adopt innovative transportation solutions immediately.

“Hopefully our cities will see this as an opportunity to partner with firms like Vulcan that are developing this technology at such a rapid pace,” Foxx said. “We want [cities] to be bold. America can remain the global leader in maintaining the safest, most efficient transportation system in the world by drawing on the laboratories of innovation in our local communities. We’re picking midsize cities [that] have big enough problems that the solutions are replicable across the country but small enough that we can see a sizable dent in those challenges [from the $50 million].”

Added Vulcan President Barbara Bennett, “May the best city win and may the rest of the world quickly follow.”