Austin out of the money as Columbus, Ohio, wins Smart City grant


Austin’s Year of Mobility won’t be getting a $40 million assist from the feds.

Columbus, Ohio, edged out Austin and five other finalists for the Smart City Challenge grant, the Columbus Dispatch and other media reported Tuesday. The office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, issued a statement Tuesday confirming that the home team had won.

Federal officials are expected to make the official announcement Thursday during a visit to Columbus, the newspaper reported. Columbus’ pitch for the grant might have been boosted by what the city said was a pledge of $90 million in local matching money, including $19 million in public funds.

While the U.S. Department of Transportation has not confirmed the winner, it issued a statement midday Tuesday emphasizing that all seven finalists — not just the winning city — will get the support of the agency and tech industry leaders to “move forward with ideas that each city developed over the past six months.”

Vulcan Inc., a company founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, pledged up to another $10 million to help the winning city convert some of its fleet to electric vehicles. The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that Vulcan “will lead the effort to bring in other philanthropists to provide additional funding to support the climate and electrification efforts of all seven cities, and beyond.”

The agency said other federal departments, such as the U.S. Department of Energy, would collaborate with all seven cities to assist with modeling and planning efforts to improve transportation networks. The release said the federal government will “focus resources” on the runner-up cities but did not specifically promise funding.

The other finalists were Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco.

Mayor Steve Adler, who had spent considerable time and effort pushing for Austin’s bid over the past few months, declined to comment Tuesday. But the mayor had said during the competition that the city would move forward with the elements of the plan it submitted, win or lose, subject to finding the money locally.

The competition challenged midsized cities to propose tech-oriented solutions to their transportation problems, with improvements that are mindful of reducing greenhouse gases and providing greater opportunities to disadvantaged communities.

Austin’s pitch envisioned traffic signals that automatically adjust their timing in response to changing traffic conditions. Other elements included converting city government vehicles and taxis to electric cars, deploying driverless vehicles at the airport and creating an all-inclusive “mobility pass” that provides access to everything from Capital Metro buses to ride-hailing services to rental B-Cycles bikes.

Making the city’s final presentation June 9, Adler noted that Austin is the most economically segregated city in the country but also one of the most tech-savvy, making the timing perfect to transform the city.

“We’re a city that’s all about innovation,” he said then.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Murder trial begins for man suspected of beating boyfriend and dog
Murder trial begins for man suspected of beating boyfriend and dog

A Travis County murder trial begins Tuesday for a man who is accused of beating his boyfriend and choking his boyfriend’s dog after a night of drinking in downtown Austin in July 2015 Bryan Canchola, 22, is charged with killing Stephen Sylvester after an argument in an apartment they shared near the University of Texas campus. He faces a...
FORECAST: Coldest morning in months starts gorgeous Tuesday, rain possible by Friday
FORECAST: Coldest morning in months starts gorgeous Tuesday, rain possible by Friday

Tuesday forecast for Austin: It’s the sort of weather that would make a Miami mobster from a Elmore Leonard novel want his leather jacket: Chilly outside this morning, before warming up to near 80 degrees for a high this afternoon.  In short, it’ll be another gorgeous day — and week — throughout Central Texas, according...
Report: Texas water supplies in farm country pose cancer risks

Researchers with a nonprofit environmental advocacy group warn that high levels of contaminants in drinking water supplies in rural areas of Texas — including Central Texas — and across the country increase risks of cancer and birth defects, according to a report released Tuesday. The Environmental Working Group says drinking water in farm...
Police: Austin man breaks jaw of person he wrongly thought he knew
Police: Austin man breaks jaw of person he wrongly thought he knew

An Austin man is accused of breaking the jaw of another man who he incorrectly thought he knew, an arrest affidavit said. Bryan Griffin, 44, was charged with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Griffin walked into a Walgreens at 10600 W. Parmer Lane on Sept. 29 and saw a man standing at a register, the...
Former Austin broadcaster, lawmaker remembered for his talents, charm
Former Austin broadcaster, lawmaker remembered for his talents, charm

Marvin “Dan” Love, an Austin broadcasting pioneer and former city lawmaker, died Friday. He was 88. Love became a newscaster for KTBC-TV (also known as Fox 7 Austin) and later ran KHFI-TV (now known as KXAN) as its general manager from 1965 to 1974. He was elected to the Austin City Council in 1971 and re-elected in 1973, serving as mayor...
More Stories