With the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) in November 2021, pressure is on state and local government agencies and their partners across the United States to not only determine relevant funding opportunities among more than 350 separate programs across more than a dozen federal departments and agencies, but to successfully secure these federal infrastructure funds.
In addition to the federal funding available through BIL, we saw the Dallas City Council’s timely and exciting approval of a resolution allowing the use of the Brimer bill. With voter approval in November, Dallas will introduce a new hotel occupancy tax at the rate of 2%. Funding from the new hotel occupancy tax rate will serve as a major source of funding for the transformational expansion of the Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center and improvements to fairground facilities, including the Automotive Building, Centennial Building, Band Shell, the Music Hall, the Cotton Bowl and the Colosseum and related infrastructure.
Not only that, but the convention center and exhibition grounds sit at the crossroads of the city where various long-term social and climate goals can be achieved. The Convention Center as proposed would literally bridge the gap between I-30 and connect South Dallas. Fair Park’s improvements are a long-standing investment in a community with limited resources, creating an opportunity for Dallas to lead the way in a sustainable, carbon-neutral approach to urban redevelopment of a historic site.
One of the new competitive grant programs, Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART), is a $500 million grant program designed to support demonstration projects focused on advanced smart city or community technologies and systems. in various communities to improve transportation efficiency and safety. A SMART grant can be used for projects that demonstrate progress in at least one of the following areas: automated transportation, connected vehicles, sensor-based smart infrastructure, systems integration, commercial delivery and logistics, innovative aerospace technology, network smart and smart traffic. Signals.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments is actively seeking projects to submit as early as the third quarter of 2022, so North Texas communities should begin identifying projects to submit under this program. Our local AECOM teams advise national and local agencies in our region to help understand how BIL is creating opportunities to stretch existing resources and limit upsizing costs by using an improved funding formula, obtaining discretionary grant funds and partnering with other regions to include their projects in larger regional initiatives that could progress under the BIL. We recently announced a first-of-its-kind digital tool, the FundNavigator, which combines artificial intelligence, geospatial analysis, capital planning, and stakeholder engagement with our comprehensive understanding of the federal grantmaking process. Our technical experts use this cloud-based solution with clients to not only provide expert advice, but to navigate the funding ecosystem and fully conceptualize their grant and program management, capital planning, electrification assessment modeling and compliance reporting.
AECOM is at the forefront of collaborating with agencies across Texas on projects related to vehicle-to-everything (CV2X) cellular connectivity, emerging technology infrastructure, an integrated data environment, and emerging technology pilot projects. AECOM recently helped the City of Richardson design a pilot project that will include infrastructure upgrades to supplement autonomous vehicles (AVs) with critical data, including location information for vulnerable road users ( VRU) and traffic light status, using CV2X communication. The project will provide valuable information to the connected AV industry for bandwidth needs and help standardize CV2X communication, as well as provide mobility services to underserved communities.
Our local teams are also helping agencies prepare to submit competitive grant applications, including working with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and five other transit agencies to develop electric vehicle transition plans. The EVP plan will help position DART to submit zero or low emission subsidy programs and bus/bus subsidy programs at the same time. Additionally, this funding will help DART advance zero emissions and automation efforts as the agency integrates the purchase of electric and automated buses and associated infrastructure.
With the growth in the region and the availability of new and timely funding opportunities, we must work together and act now to advance infrastructure in North Texas in a sustainable and future-oriented way.
Dev Rastogi is Vice President and Director of Dallas at AECOM.