Austin loses out on $50 million Smart City bid

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded $40 million in Smart City grants to Columbus, Ohio. The city of Austin lobbied hard for the grant money, which would have funded innovative technology like self-driving cars and smart sensors into the city’s transportation network.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday that federal officials will be in Ohio on Thursday to make the announcement.

The challenge was issued initially in December 2015 with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. pledging an additional $10 million to the winning city.

The six losing cities will still get assistance from the department, including support from Vulcan Inc. “All seven cities have committed, regardless of which city wins the challenge, to continue working together to support the use of technology to address issues that all cities face, and to share best practices,” DOT said.

The Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate is also helping the finalists reach their Smart City goals.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was in Austin last month as the city made a final pitch for the grant money. Foxx cited Austin’s significant population growth, the amount of semis driving along Interstate 35 and the need for alternate transportation as the main problems facing the city. Mayor Steve Adler has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to further the city’s bid.

There was concern the May 9 departure of Uber and Lyft from Austin would hurt the city’s chances, but Secretary Foxx told city leaders on May 17, “I wouldn’t be here if Austin weren’t a strong contender in the challenge.”

In March, Austin was named as a finalist for the funding, along with six other U.S. cities, including Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco.

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