Columbus wins Smart City Challenge!

Mary Yost

Columbus has beat out six other cities to land $40 million in federal Smart City Challenge transportation funds to create a model for the future of community-based intelligent transportation systems. An announcement is expected for Thursday in Linden-one of the neighborhoods to be a focus of the project.

The federal funds will be supplemented with another $10 million private grant from Vulcan and its founder, Paul Allen, plus $90 million in support lined up from companies associated with the Columbus Partnership. All told, $140 million will support the initiative.

Seeking the Smart City grant was one of the first initiatives undertaken by Mayor Andrew Ginther as he entered office in January. The mayor's office tapped into the city's culture of collaboration to engage help from Partnership members including Battelle, AEP, Ohio State University, Nationwide, Honda, L Brands, Cardinal Health and others.

In a final pitch to Federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx June 9, the city highlighted its appeal with a high-energy video capitalizing on the city's corporate culture of collaboration.

Key aspects of the city's application are to use the opportunity to connect workers in high poverty neighborhoods with jobs, improve access to education and prenatal care and reduce traffic congestion. The mayor has said it was especially impressive to Foxx, a former mayor of Charlotte, that Columbus flew a contingent of corporate leaders to meet with him in Washington D.C. to lobby for the grant. "Secretary Foxx said he was lucky to get a group of CEOs in a room when he was mayor of Charlotte, let alone fly them to Washington," Ginther told Columbus CEO for a June issue story on the Smart City Challenge.

The mayor's office and Columbus Partnership declined to comment but Senator Sherrod Brown's office confirmed the award of the grant to Columbus. In a statement, Brown said, "Mayor Ginther and the city's partners demonstrated a commitment to smart growth that makes the city better for all residents. And that's why I worked so hard to support Columbus's efforts. I look forward to continuing to work with local leaders and community members to realize the vision of a first-of-its-kind transportation system that increases access to jobs, links neighborhoods, and improves real-time information in a sustainable, safe way."

-Mary Yost