North Central Regional Planning Commission has been named an awardee of two different programs offered through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We are fortunate to have received both awards in a highly competitive process at the federal level,” said Debra Carlson Ohlde, NCRPC Strategic Development Advisor.
Based in Beloit, the NCRPC serves as the rural economic development district comprised of 12 counties with 83 towns in North Central Kansas.
The first award is through the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program. Through its SMART Grants Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded tech demonstration projects across the U.S. focused on advanced smart city or community technologies and systems to improve transportation efficiency and safety.
The SMART award for North Central Kansas funds a pilot program focused on drone use to inspect transportation assets. The data gathered from the drone inspections will be integrated in a prototype GIS-based platform that catalogs local infrastructure assets for innovative data management, monitoring asset conditions, and utilizing technology to inform solutions for infrastructure management and maintenance.
“We are excited to begin work on the SMART grant with member counties and with other partners across the state,” Ohlde said. “This project will enable the NCRPC to bolster GIS capacity in the region as well as pilot a system to use drone technology to manage transportation asset inspection and data capture.”
Although this first 18-month project is a pilot and has a limited number of participating counties, there is opportunity to grow the project to the entire region in the future.
The second award is through the Thriving Communities Program, also offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This award will provide no-cost, intensive technical assistance services for NCRPC and its project partners to build resilience and better position the region to access funding for future transportation projects. The project is anticipated to get underway in late spring/early summer and continue through 2025.
“The application to the Thriving Communities program was a natural fit for the NCRPC,” Ohlde said. “We have always tried to engage our region in new programs and this one offers the opportunity to learn from other similar regions and to access additional technical support for our counties. It is challenging for rural areas to capitalize on federal funding programs and we know we will be better able to do that as an organization and region through this opportunity.”