In the quest to become the nation’s first smart region, Northeast Florida’s plans for transportation and infrastructure innovation is catching the eye of international experts in the field.
The North Florida Smart Region Coalition, a consortium of more than 100 public agencies, nonprofits and businesses, including JAX Chamber/JAXUSA Partnership, is one of 10 North American finalists for the Smart Cities Council’s Readiness Challenge. The Smart Cities Council is an international organization that envisions smart, sustainable cities through innovative solutions to create high-quality of life and high-skilled jobs. The annual Readiness Challenge aims to help cities accelerate their smart initiatives, and this year, received more than 100 proposals from cities/regions to qualify as finalists.
The plan submitted by North Florida Smart Region Coalition builds from an established master plan with 33 projects that advance new energy, safety, telecommunications, and health and human services initiatives across four counties. Some of the signature projects of the existing master plan are the Bay Jax Innovation Corridor, a software-based St. Augustine parking solution known as Park StAug and JEA’s innovation lab.
Should the plan be chosen as one of the five winners in April, Northeast Florida will receive mentorship, resources and international marketing exposure over the next year to continue the momentum already seen with the plan. North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Executive Director Jeff Sheffield will be in attendance for the announcement and will present the plan to showcase the region’s work before more than 1,000 attendees from 30 countries.
The North Florida TPO has been a champion of the region-wide master plan, leading the charge with organizations like Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), JEA and city and county governments for The Bay Jax, autonomous vehicles, solar sidewalks, parking management and pavement analytics projects. The organization is also working to launch an integrated data exchange which will share data to serve public and private projects and is drawing attention from global companies and startups to set up operations in the region to serve the needs of the plan. Sheffield and JTA’s executive director Nat Ford were guests on JAXUSA’s podcast, The JAX Current last summer discussing the importance of the plan to the region.
Palm Coast in Flagler County, the region’s southernmost county, is also a finalist for the Readiness Challenge. Its plan calls for a new downtown innovation district and highlighted new economic incentives, fiber optic network expansion and the Opportunity Zone designation.
For more information, read the article at Jacksonville Business Journal.