Sioux Falls could be the center point of a high-technology superhighway linking Canada to Mexico and both coasts some time in the next decade.
Interstate 29 in Sioux Falls sits at the axis of the main spine of a north-south route linking Canada to Mexico, a perfect position for the high-technology superhighway designed to accelerate commerce across the nation that has been proposed by the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor, an outgrowth of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The so-called "smart highway" would feature a fiber optics tracking system installed in the highway pavement and use global satellite positioning to track trucks, help them clear checkpoints faster and make border crossings easier. The system would also help businesses monitor their trucks to determine location or mechanical problems along the highway.
Participation in the project makes good economic sense for Sioux Falls, according to Steve Metli, director of planning and building services. "If we do this, and it is actually happening right now, we can become a major distribution and warehousing center, which makes us more attractive for ag processing and light manufacturing due to increased efficiencies for shipping and transporting goods."
Some funding for the project could be available if this year's federal highway funding bill passes. A proposed $45 million a year is allocated for pilot projects to enhance shipping across border. In addition, $100 million has been proposed to encourage states and the private sector to collaborate on uses for a global satellite and fiber optic technology.
"A lot of excitement is being generated in the heartland along the north-south corridor, especially in Kansas City, which sits at the confluence of I-29 and I-35," Metli says. "The key thing is organization and collaboration-forming public-private partnerships with the shipping industry and high-technology firms."
A summer meeting of the north-south communities is planned, Metli says, and the technological improvements could be under way some time in the next five to 10 years.