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Two new $2 million federal SMART grants enhance safety along light rail in the Rainier Valley & support deliveries in Seattle

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  • New grants: The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded Seattle two new $2 million grants via its SMART (Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation) grant program.
  • Rainier Valley light rail safety: The first grant was awarded to Sound Transit and will be implemented by us. It funds technology to collect real-time traffic data at signalized light rail crossings along Martin Luther King Jr Way S. Data will inform safety upgrades and is part of the 5 momentum-building actions released in the Vision Zero Top to Bottom Review.
  • Reliable deliveries: The second grant, awarded to us, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), funds digitizing the curb to help people making deliveries.
  • Thank you, partners: We want to thank the USDOT, our federal Congressional delegation, and our partners at Sound Transit, the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, and the Open Mobility Foundation for making these projects possible.
  • Look ahead: We’re now eligible for up to $15 million in additional federal funding if the pilots are successful.

Grants are an important way we supplement local funding to advance projects in Seattle. Since 2022, we’ve received over $40 million in federal grants. The projects funded by the two new SMART grants are described in this blog post.

Rainier Valley Safe: Technology Investments to Improve Community Safety around Link Light Rail Corridor

A link light rail train stopped at the Othello Station. Large buildings are in the background, with a traffic signal and other signage in the foreground.
A Sound Transit light rail train travels through southeast Seattle and the Othello Station along Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. Photo credit: Sound Transit

This pilot project installs smart-sensing infrastructure and upgrades traffic signals to help address safety at rail crossings along the existing Link light rail line that runs through the Rainier Valley. The pilot improves traffic operations for people walking, rolling, biking, and driving at signalized intersections by automatically collecting, analyzing, and sharing real-time traffic information – all day, every day, throughout the year. We’re committed to protecting your privacy as part of this safety project. Data collected will automatically analyze and report near-miss collisions, so we can make better-informed safety improvements.

The technology provides collision warning alerts to travelers and light rail train operators. This includes alerting people of approaching trains via on-street signs, bells, and handheld devices.

Traffic signals will be backed up with batteries and remain operational during power outages. As well, accessible pedestrian signals will be upgraded with features like advanced “touchless” push-button technology.

We’re partnering with Sound Transit in this important safety and mobility work.

“This grant is an important part of Sound Transit’s ongoing commitment to improve safety through the Rainier Valley. New technologies have the promise of preventing potential conflicts that can save lives. We’re thankful to Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation for recognizing the value of this project and to our congressional delegation for their support for this grant.”

– Julie Timm, CEO, Sound Transit

This grant-funded work aligns with our commitment to improving safety throughout the city, particularly southeast Seattle communities in the Rainier Valley. As outlined in our recent Vision Zero Top-to-Bottom Review, we identified the near-term action to partner with Sound Transit to implement a series of improvements along Martin Luther King Jr. Way S to enhance safety for all travelers.

“I’m thrilled to receive Federal funding to support our joint effort with Sound Transit to improve safety around Link light rail in southeast Seattle communities. This Federal grant accelerates one of the five Early Momentum Actions we announced last month when we released the Vision Zero ‘Top to Bottom Review.’”

– Greg Spotts, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation

Last Mile Freight Curb Access: Digitizing the Last Mile of Urban Goods to Improve Curb Access and Use

We applied for this grant in 2022, and you can read more about our application in this previous blog post. We’re thrilled to be selected to receive this grant funding!

We’ll work closely with our partners at the UW Urban Freight Lab and the Open Mobility Foundation to establish new commercial vehicle permit policies and pilot a digital permit. We aim to reduce congestion, improve access to the curb, and promote more sustainable forms of delivery. You can read more about how the process works and its benefits in this previous blog post.

A large brown UPS truck parked in a load zone in Seattle. A brick sidewalk and package dolly is in the foreground, as well as two bike parking racks.
Unloading packages on the sidewalk for delivery in Seattle. Photo credit: Giacomo Dalla Chiara – Urban Freight Lab.

Seattle was not alone in its efforts – cities around the country are working together with the Open Mobility Foundation to improve curb access using similar technologies, including Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Miami-Dade County. Buffalo, New York also won a grant for curb management.

“This grant will allow us to advance work to modernize how we provide reliable access for commercial delivery vehicles at the curb using a collaborative, data-driven approach. We look forward to working with our partners at the Open Mobility Foundation and University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab, along with cities around the country.”

– Mike Estey, Manager of Curbside Management, SDOT

“The Urban Freight Lab is delighted to partner with the Seattle Department of Transportation, Open Mobility Foundation, freight carriers, and local business to deliver new digital tools and data-driven solutions to maximize access, safety, mobility and usage of the limited curb space in Seattle. Deploying new strategies and approaches is key to increasing network productivity, reducing congestion and emissions, promoting a more efficient last mile, and achieving Seattle’s climate and economic goals.”

– Anne Goodchild, Director, Urban Freight Lab, University of Washington

“We’re so excited to see USDOT invest in building open source data and technology capacity – a critical part of creating safer, more equitable, and environmentally sustainable city transportation systems. As a public-private partnership on the forefront of building this digital infrastructure, the Open Mobility Foundation looks forward to seeing the SMART grant propel this collaborative of cities, including Seattle, to connect, share learnings, and leverage open source tools like the Curb Data Specification (CDS) to accomplish their policy goals.”

– Andrew Glass Hastings, Executive Director, Open Mobility Foundation

We continue to seek grants building on our momentum. You can read more about some of our recent grant applications, the $25.6 million Safe Streets grant we received earlier this year and the nearly $15 million we were awarded in 2022 to help revive three city bridges. We were also recently awarded a $2.4 million grant for a future bridge replacement planning study of the 4th/Argo Railyard Bridge.

Thank you for your interest, and we look forward to providing additional updates as this work gets underway.