Fort Bend County penned a letter of support for Sugar Land’s $2.05 million Intelligent Transportation Systems Railroad Monitoring, Communication and Notification System project, which aims to improve mobility and safety through extended technology infrastructure along the Hwy. 90A corridor.

This project focuses on upgrading hardware for Sugar Land’s existing railroad monitoring system and begins to lay the foundation for connected vehicles to support traffic operations, according to Fort Bend’s letter of support. It calls for coordination with Fort Bend County as well as Missouri City, Stafford and Richmond.

The system can detect train speed, direction and length at six locations within the city of Sugar Land along the Hwy. 90A corridor, per the letter. The goal of the project is to expand this system to more locations within the city and, ultimately, to other locations along the Hwy. 90A corridor within Fort Bend County.

The letter of support states another goal of these improvements is to enhance the way Sugar Land disseminates information to roadway users, and to improve congestion and emergency response times.

In total, $2.28 million is available for the project, including $1.25 million allocated in Sugar Land’s fiscal year 2021-22 capital improvement plan and $1.03 million allocated in the 2020 Fort Bend County Mobility Bond.

Per Fort Bend's letter of support and Sugar Land City Council agenda documents, the Hwy. 90A corridor serves approximately 63,000 vehicles on weekdays and can increase to around 70,000 vehicles during the school year. The adjacent Union Pacific Railroad track serves around 32 trains every day.

With use of Hwy. 90A as a major route to the south, the proposed merger of Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway is also anticipated to increase train traffic.

The city of Sugar Land authorized a grant application for this project on Oct. 18, and Missouri City approved a resolution of support for it at a Nov. 7 City Council meeting.

On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the opening of the FY 2022-23 round of the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation Grants Program, established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The SMART Grants Program exists to conduct demonstration projects focused on advanced smart technologies and systems to improve transportation efficiency and safety.

Sugar Land is applying for a Stage 1 Planning and Prototyping Grant, which will enable it to continue testing and prototyping equipment to determine the best solution before investing in system upgrades. Stage 1 projects for SMART funding will be evaluated based on technical merit criteria, project readiness and other considerations, such as benefits to historically disadvantaged communities.

The grant application was due Nov. 18, and the USDOT will make award announcements in early 2023, according to Sugar Land agenda documents.