The project to connect Stafford County like never before is well underway.
Dubbed “Smart City Test Bed,” the project to remake the county into the state’s first-ever 5G-connected community is focused on how to reduce traffic, how to predict and detect flooding, and, maybe someday, guide a tourist to get a juicy hamburger at a locally-owned restaurant.
“Smart is bigger than technology,” said Stafford County Economic Development Director John Holden.
Last summer, the county signed an agreement with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), Virginia’s quasi-governmental agency, promising to work together to first blanket the area around the county’s courthouse with 5G wireless technology. That work is happening now.
Work to roll out broadband access to the rest of the county will follow, said Holden. About $1 million has been spent as part of the Smart City Test Bed project.
It’s a mix of federal, and state dollars. As the project continues, it will like include funding from sponsorships and local money.
We (CIT) have funded what I would call the core digital infrastructure of the testbed. Going forward, the intent is to use the testbed as a place to demonstrate and test additional technologies that we think have the potential to advance smart communities, digitally-enabled government services etc. The testbed has garnered widespread interest for potential use.
David Ihrie, Center for Innovative Technology
The smart city project comes as the county has shifted its focus to redeveloping the courthouse area into a walkable, urban neighborhood called Downtown Stafford, complete with retail shops, offices, and new homes.
Residents and some elected officials have been critical of the project because of two construction sites at two other prominent economic development projects in North Stafford — the redevelopment of Aquia Town Center and The Garrison, the long-hyped site of a new movie theater and new homes, lay dormant.
Beyond traffic control and flood sensors, Holden said smart city technology could be used to improve tourism, guiding visitors to area attractions and businesses. An open house where people can get a better sense of what’s being done and the project’s money is tentatively scheduled for May 25.
Garrisonville District Supervisor Mark Dudenehfer is bullish on Downtown Stafford and the smart city project.
“Sometimes, when you’re out there on the tip of the spear, you can’t answer all of the questions about what the future holds,” said Dudenehfer.
The smart city project will lead to higher home values and better schools, he added.