Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $500,000 grant brings Erie closer to becoming ‘smart city’

Will fund free public Wi-Fi, enhance security in crime-prone areas

HARRISBURG, Oct. 10 – Erie is one step closer to becoming a “smart city,” thanks to a $500,000 grant that will fund the city’s broadband deployment program and provide free public Wi-Fi access, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today.

The grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will expand Erie’s “Secure Smart City Pilot” – a project launched last year to help the city use electronic data collection to better manage resources, fight crime, and improve efficiency.

“I’m especially excited about how this program is going to make us a safer community,” Harkins said. “I have been working with law enforcement for some time on this project, and this infusion of funding is going to enhance security in areas that are prone to crime. We’ll be seeing urban security solutions that include traffic monitoring, analytics that can be tracked on a visualization dashboard, and better lighting, including the ability to remotely control streetlights.”

Merski noted that the technology also will enable Erie to save money and operate more efficiently. 

“The theory behind smart cities is that they use information technology to capture data that can pinpoint exactly where resources are needed,” Merski said. “That allows us to target specific areas needing assistance while reducing wasteful spending. It translates to better service for residents and a reduced burden on taxpayers.”

Bizzarro said that by enabling the city to provide outdoor Wi-Fi access, the funding will lead to enhanced quality of life for residents.

“It’s amazing seeing Erie on its way to joining other smart cities throughout the country, and it’s also fitting, given that our community is quickly becoming home to more and more tech industries. To be able to use technology to enhance connectivity, improve delivery of services and reduce waste is to bring us into the 21st century. It all leads to a better, safer life for residents. And in the final analysis, that’s what it’s all about.”

Bizzarro noted that in addition to the $500,000 grant, an additional investment of $900,000 from other sources will allow implementation of other Smart City project components within the area. Erie hopes to become an entirely Smart City by 2028.

The grant is part of a package of $8 million in funding for 10 projects in counties affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production.