Arizona · economic development · federal spending · infrastructure · transportation · Tucson · Uncategorized

The Future of Transportation: Can the Federal Infrastructure Bill Advance Technological Innovation?

infrastructure & innovation

Federal infrastructure funding may be the next big issue that Congress and the Trump Administration tackle. Trump has proposed $1 trillion to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, but has not yet provided specifics. Meanwhile, leaders in the Senate have started discussing their own ideas for an infrastructure package. Back home, Governor Ducey has sent a $500 million wish-list to the White House of high-priority infrastructure projects in Arizona that he hopes will be included in the federal package.

While fixing maintenance backlogs and adding new capacity to our roads and highways are important for relieving congestion and improving safety, what’s really exciting is the opportunity to harness technological innovation to build an interconnected transportation system that moves people and freight more efficiently. Autonomous vehicles, delivery drones and ride-sharing will be important components of the transportation system of the future. These systemic transformations will impact the design of cities and regional transportation networks. Everything from parking to lane width to connectivity between different modes of transportation will require some degree of redesign.  

“Today, rapid technological advances coupled with shifts in demographics
and public preferences are dramatically altering the nature of transportation
in America’s cities.” – National League of Cities

delivery drones flying

“Big data” can be applied to reduce bottlenecks and optimize traffic flows. A smart power grid could be used for charging electrical vehicles during optimal times of day. A current impediment to effectively using traffic data is that cities, counties and states tend to have incompatible software systems. This is an area where federal investment could really help. Getting different governmental jurisdictions onto compatible systems is a necessary precursor for realizing the benefits of massive amounts of transportation data. In the near future, we are likely to see apps that help with trip planning by drawing upon real-time data to create an optimal route that may use a combination of a personal vehicle, mass transit and/or ride-sharing.

An ideal federal infrastructure bill would give states the ability to innovate and plan for emerging transportation technologies. Arizona is well-positioned to be a leader in the future of transportation having already made strides in testing autonomous vehicles and fostering regional collaboration.  If the legislation is well-crafted, we will be able to set the stage for a future with vastly improved mobility.

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