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Transportation Tech Projects Moving Forward With U.S. DOT Funding

Grant programs like the Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation program and Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation are advancing transportation and transit improvement tech projects across the country.

Riders board an on-demand autonomous transit vehicle in Grand Rapids, Minn. The service, known as goMARTI is an 18-month pilot program.
Image courtesy of Via
Transportation technology and innovation projects around the country are moving forward to better understand traffic management, advance easier payment procedures for transit, expand the use of autonomous on-demand transportation and more.

Some $52.8 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has been awarded to eight projects as part of the Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) program.

In Maryland, an $11.9 million grant will help to fund new technology to reduce congestion and improve safety along U.S. Highway 50 serving Maryland’s eastern shore. The technology will pay close attention to traffic buildups and adjust signal timing in real time to set up gaps in the flow of vehicles, which then enables traffic from side streets to enter the flow.

“Emerging technology is providing us with new tools to monitor, predict and respond to traffic congestion and safety concerns,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld, in a statement.

The Minnesota Autonomous Rural Transit Initiative, known as goMARTI, has been operating an on-demand, autonomous microtransit operation since September 2022 in Grand Rapids, across some 16.5 square miles with 70 stops. The project, planned as an 18-month pilot, has been awarded $9.3 million to expand and extend the program. Some of the new stops will include a local university campus, a food bank and Walmart.

“Expanding goMARTI to Minnesota North College - Itasca is a big win for our current and prospective students. Reliable transportation is a barrier for many people, and this free and convenient shuttle option will make college much more accessible to those who don’t live on or near campus,” said Michael Raich, president of Minnesota North College, in a statement.

So far, goMARTI has provided more than 2,500 rides, which includes 349 wheelchair-assisted rides, say officials.

The ATTAIN funding will also expand the Minnesota Department of Transportation's trip-planning platform, in partnership with the Transit App, allowing goMARTI to appear in the Transit App as a transportation option.

Similarly, the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) grants, awarded by the U.S. DOT as part of the infrastructure initiative, has made $94 million available for 59 projects spread across 33 states. The SMART program focuses its grant awards to public agencies conducting demonstration projects using technology to help improve safety and or efficiencies.

All of the grantees are for Stage 1 planning and prototype grants, which will have an opportunity to apply for Stage 2 implementation grants, said Ben Levine, senior adviser of research and technology at U.S. DOT, speaking at the Urbanism Next conference in Portland, Ore., in April.

“Our philosophy on transportation technology is that it requires team building. It requires idea generation, and it requires projects to refine and build over time. I think that’s a lesson that has been learned in this space over the course of the last decade or so,” he said.

“The effort here is to bring projects along at a speed that allows for local support that then can build really strong projects,” Levine added.