Pittsburgh loses Smart City Challenge

Pittsburgh will have to wait a little longer to become a “smart” city.

Pittsburgh competed against six other finalists in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge — a national program that offered more than $40 million to the city with the best plan for fully integrating innovative technologies into transportation. Columbus, Ohio, won the challenge, according to several media reports.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman released a statement congratulating Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther on winning the challenge.

“This grant, combined with its public-private investment, will help reshape the transportation sector in central Ohio for decades to come, and I’d like to congratulate Mayor Ginther and the City of Columbus for receiving this major award,” Portman said. “I’m proud that I was able to work with the mayor and the private sector in their bid to win this grant by leading the congressional delegation pitch. Most importantly, this grant will help meet the transportation needs of Ohioans who live in the low-income neighborhoods in and around Columbus to ensure they can get to their job or receive a good education.”

Pittsburgh was among 78 applicants when the competition launched last December. The Department of Transportation later narrowed that list down to just six others, including Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Kansas; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; San Francisco, California, and Portland, Oregon.

“Pittsburgh has not been notified of a winner of the Smart City Challenge,” Timothy McNulty, spokesperson for Mayor Bill Peduto, said. “But should the city not come out on top we have long said Pittsburgh is already a leader in smart transportation initiatives, and what we and our partners learned through this process only reinforces our vision.

At a May 16 meeting with U.S. Secretary Department of Transportation Anthony Foxx and other Pittsburgh leaders and companies involved with the city’s proposal, Mayor Bill Peduto said the city will still implement the changes to transportation if Pittsburgh lost, though it will take some time to raise funds for them. McNulty echoed those intentions Tuesday.

“Our collaborations with the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal agencies — as well as the private sector, non-profits and universities — will be ongoing,” McNulty said. “Regardless of who wins, we are committed to working with the other finalist cities in building initiatives that connect all our residents.”

Pittsburgh’s smart city plan included traffic signals that will use sensor detection to make traffic patterns more efficient, creating electric avenues to pilot self-driving vehicles and energy-saving streetlights that can “talk” to one another and monitor air quality.

As part of its plan, Pittsburgh focused on connecting people to jobs, reconnecting areas of the city such as the Hill District and Hazelwood andadding more public transportation options from Oakland to Downtown.

U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., released a statement Tuesday evening in response to Pittsburgh’s loss.

“I was very disappointed to learn that Pittsburgh was not selected as the recipient of the DoT Smart City grant. We have some of the top talent in the world in this field right here in southwestern Pennsylvania, and I thought that Pittsburgh’s proposal was one of the best plans entered in the competition,” Doyle said. “Embracing these new technologies would benefit local residents, help grow our economy and keep our region globally competitive – so I believe we should move forward with the Smart City plan we’ve developed and continue to make Pittsburgh an example of the advantages smart cities technologies can provide.”

The DoT will officially announce its Smart City winner later this month.