Ohio State and city celebrate Smart Columbus victory

Project affects transportation and such issues as poverty, employment and food security

By: Chris Booker

Published on January 27, 2017

President Michael V. Drake discusses the importance of Smart Columbus
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

Leadership for The Ohio State University and the city of Columbus celebrated a national championship-type victory Friday in a challenge for the future of transportation.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther joined College of Engineering Dean David Williams to highlight Smart Columbus to the university Board of Trustees. Smart Columbus envisions the city as a center for high-tech transportation research and innovation.

“Smart Columbus is about much more than transportation. It positively impacts serious community issues like poverty, food deserts, infant mortality, access to affordable transportation, employment opportunities and internet connectivity,” Williams said.

In June, the city won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, beating out 77 cities. The win secured $40 million in grants from the federal government and another $10 million from Vulcan Inc. Another $90 million in private and public donations will be poured into the Smart Columbus initiative.

Mayor Andrew Ginther speaks to the Board of Trustees
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

“Collaboration is really part of our DNA,” Ginther said. “Arguably we do public-private partnerships better than anywhere in America.”

Ohio State will serve as the lead researcher on Smart Columbus. President Michael V. Drake compared winning the Smart Cities challenge to the Buckeyes winning the 2014 National Championship.

“It wasn’t luck. It was preparation, focus, values and partnerships,” said Drake. “I’m really excited about what we’ve done thus far and I’m actually thrilled about what we’ll be able to do working together in the future.”

Trustee Alex Fischer, praised the effort by Drake and Ginther. He said both quickly recognized the potential of the Smart Cities program.

“It’s about leadership. It’s about solving our tough challenges,” said Fischer, who as head of the Columbus Partnership also played an important role.

The funding will be used to research ways to integrate self-driving cars, use sensors to better connect vehicles to make them safer and more efficient, and to find better ways to move people around the city when they don’t have access to a car.

The university has been at the forefront of funding and supporting new transportation ideas.

On Thursday, the state and the university committed $45 million to expand the university-affiliated Transportation Research Center. The funds will support research and innovation for autonomous – or driverless – vehicles. The College of Engineering has also committed $24 million over five years to hire faculty and staff to support research into autonomous vehicles.

Last week Sen. Sherrod Brown announced Ohio State will receive $1.5 million for testing to help increase use of low- or no-emission buses in public transportation.


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Chris Booker
614-292-7276 | Email

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