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Columbus, Ohio, Eyes $40 Million Smart Cities Grant

City officials say they're looking at autonomous and electric vehicles and a payment system that bridges all modes of transportation.

(TNS) — The U.S. Department of Transportation is trying to figure out where it can get the most out of a $40 million investment that could turn Columbus into a test track for transportation technology.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited Columbus on Monday for a roundtable discussion about Columbus’ transportation network ahead of the deadline to submit applications for the grant.

“We want to see what we invest in work,” Foxx said. “We’re really looking at what you want to accomplish and how well suited you are to get there and what difference our investment will make here versus someplace else and whether we get more distance out of that investment here.”

Columbus is one of seven finalists for the department’s Smart City grant, which will provide $40 million to a city to use advanced technologies to reduce congestion and improve the environmental effects of travel. Vulcan Inc. plans to award $10 million more to look at electric vehicles.

The city hasn’t submitted its application yet, but local officials have said it is looking at autonomous and electric vehicles and a payment system that bridges all modes of transportation. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said the city also is looking at ways to better connect Linden residents to the rest of the city.

Ginther said he wants to see Columbus become “the Silicon Valley of intelligent transportation systems.”

Officials also are pledging to make sure the federal government gets a good return on its investment.

At the discussion, former Mayor Michael B. Coleman said if the city wins, it and the private sector would come up with additional money to support the programs that the grant starts.

Foxx said the department will decide this summer which city will receive the funding. It will look at how each city plans to improve safety and advance electric vehicles, among other criteria.

The city that is selected will have a national spotlight on it to see how new transportation technology can work, Foxx said.

“I think Columbus has an advantage,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said. “Columbus is really sort of every person’s city in this country. If it works in Columbus, it works, we know that. We’ve been a test center for so many corporations.”

©2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.