Smart Cities May Be Key to National Infrastructure Initiative

Governors and mayors seeking federal infrastructure investment see IT as a key to resiliency.

During the recent winter meeting of the National Governors Association, U.S. governors pressed for a comprehensive federal infrastructure plan that would provide financial incentives for states to rebuild and reinforce infrastructure.

Infrastructure resiliency depends on the deployment of modern technologies including sensors and the Internet of Things to maintain the health of transportation and electric infrastructure, and the federal government should help fund such initiatives, governors urged the White House and Congress. Experts have called for smart infrastructure that can withstand pressures such as destructive natural disasters.

In a hearing of the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 7, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said in prepared testimony, "Governors believe that innovative technologies should be embraced to achieve resiliency, security and efficiency. Infrastructure should incorporate new capabilities related to increasing connectivity, autonomy, digital information and electrification. States are leading the way in embracing new practices and technologies that provide innovative solutions to traditional infrastructure needs; federal investments should be integrated and reward positive, evidence-based outcomes."

Walz pointed to the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in 2007 as an example of a tragedy that could be avoided with the resiliency afforded by modern technology. 

"We must fix and expand existing infrastructure and invest in resiliency and security to modernize it for future generations," Walz said. "We must attend to needs across our rural, urban and suburban areas. Infrastructure encompasses more than roads and bridges. It also includes city and community development, transit, seaports and airports, inland waterways and electric vehicle charging networks. It involves water and wastewater, the energy system, electricity grid and power plants, public buildings and advanced communications networks."

In the same hearing, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Infrastructure Task Force, pressed Congress to pass an infrastructure package that would bolster smart cities.

"The federal government should reward states and cities for ensuring their assets perform to the level that the public expects — focusing on longer-term lifecycle needs and using innovation and new technology to deliver results whenever possible," Garcetti said.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how cities can overcome challenges to smart city deployments. 

Smart City Partnerships Focus on Digital Infrastructure

Los Angeles and AT&T last year announced they were exploring a public-private partnership to explore smart city solutions. AT&T emphasized the city would tackle challenges around "traffic, natural disaster preparedness and public safety."

"To achieve this, we’re exploring the deployment of a variety of Smart Cities solutions ranging from digital kiosks to structural monitoring to digital infrastructure," AT&T said in a press release.

Similarly, Greenville, S.C., has been working with Sprint on a 5G-powered deployment of that company's Curiosity IoT infrastructure. The project would involve construction of infrastructure to support new technologies.

"Cities used to invest in roads, rails and airports; the infrastructure of the future to attract investment is digital," said Knox White, mayor of Greenville. "Sprint's Curiosity IoT with mobile 5G is readying cities to attract the business of the future."

Sprint's 5G network and micropositioning technology would support connected vehicles, autonomous drones and smart machines in a dedicated area of the city, the company said. 

According to Smart Cities Dive:

Some of the technologies expected to be developed and tested at the facility are autonomous vehicles and smart crosswalks. Organizers believe many tech companies don't fully understand the amount of infrastructure and testing needed for successfully integrating smart city projects, and the collaborative environment will help them discover and navigate such challenges.

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how smart cities gain efficiencies from traffic sensors. 

Resilient Infrastructure Depends on Modern Technology

The Bipartisan Policy Center says cities require investments in smart infrastructure to aid disaster recovery.

“The nation must come together to develop long-term solutions starting with an examination of how communities can build better, smarter and more resilient infrastructure, to reduce costs and save lives in future disasters,” the nonprofit says. 

The Brookings Institution praises a Smart City RFI released by Boston as a means to improve procurement for resilient infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the NGA continues to argue for a comprehensive national initiative on infrastructure improvements. On Feb. 23, NGA held an infrastructure hearing with Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, and Bill Shuster, former chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to explore ways to work with the White House and Congress to fund infrastructure improvements.

“We are encouraged that the Administration and Congress are focusing on the nation’s infrastructure needs,” NGA CEO and Executive Director Scott Pattison said. “Governors have been leading the way in terms of innovative strategies to address state-level infrastructure needs and the federal government equally needs to prioritize modernization and investing in the future. Modern and well-maintained infrastructure is vital to the economy, public safety and quality of life, and achieving this goal requires the full collaboration of federal, state and local governments.”

DKart/Getty Images
Mar 11 2019

Sponsors