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September 27, 2016 2:15 PM, EDT

White House Announces $80 Million for Smart Cities Program

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More than 70 cities and communities will receive $80 million to improve freight and transit connectivity, reduce their carbon footprint and increase the resilience of infrastructure to severe weather events, the White House announced this week.

The funding for the administration’s “Smart Cities” initiative, launched last year, is meant to bolster local advances in transportation and climate change programs.

“With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in urban settings, many of our fundamental challenges — from climate change to equitable growth to improved health — will require our cities to be laboratories for innovation,” according to a  White House announcement Sept. 26. “The rapid pace of technological change, from the rise of data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and ubiquitous sensor networks to autonomous vehicles, holds significant promise for addressing core local challenges.”

Specifically, the Obama administration is dedicating $15 million in grants for urban transportation projects that include National Science Foundation funding for researchers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Researchers there will be tasked with testing an urban network of connected and autonomous vehicles. Autonomous technology is gaining wide support among trucking stakeholders.

Additionally, nearly $15 million in funding also was dedicated for two coalitions to help cities tackle concerns related to energy and climate infrastructure. The Department of Energy has identified 1,800 buildings totaling 49 million square feet with data analytics tools that potentially could reduce their energy footprint by 8%.

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation awarded Columbus, Ohio, $40 million as part of its Smart City Challenge. The funding is meant to help the city connect neighborhoods, improve mobility for residents and develop electric self-driving shuttles. The funding also was designed to encourage growth and to provide an environment for new and existing technology companies to locate in the city.