LIMA — Can data be used to warn drivers of stopped trains? Spectrum and US Ignite, a non-profit organization, are partnering with the State of Ohio to try to answer that question in Lima.
The two private partners will be installing data collection tools — such as sensors, videos and other devices — to track trains and their intersections throughout Lima with the goal of finding ways to better correlate that data with real-time traffic. If they’re successful, smartphones and other devices should be able to use such information to advise drivers about train schedules and wait times at railroad crossings.
As for Lima’s involvement, the city was chosen as a testing ground for the technology due to its logistical challenges around trains. Mayor David Berger, for example, emphasized the cost and time investment that can go into a single grade separation project. With such $18 million solutions largely out of reach the remaining 40 crossings in Lima, residents have had to deal with stopped trains for decades.
“We have railroad yards with trains being disassembled, and it can literally tie up a rail crossing, a street intersection, for half an hour. We’re not talking five minutes,” Berger said. “We’re talking about half an hour long wait, and that happens on both sides of town.”
As part of the initiative to solve the issue, a Spectrum Smart Cities team will be coordinating directly with the city to deliver the gathered data and set up what’s needed for the ongoing research.
“As a trusted adviser, we look forward to developing a proof of concept that uses sensors, devices, analytics and software to help make Lima’s railroad crossings safer and local roads and routes more efficient for residents and visitors,” said Satya Parami, the vice president of Spectrum’s enterprise data projects and smart cities initiative.
Due to Lima’s involvement with the project, the city has been named as one of the US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities, which are being used as testing grounds for other smart city initiatives. Cleveland, for example, rolled out a Smart Lake initiative through the partnership, which actively monitors nutrients and algal blooms on Lake Erie.
“This collaboration comes at the right time, and our city is thrilled and grateful to be selected as the first city in the state of Ohio to roll out this initiative,” Berger said in a press release. “The freight railroad system is a significant part of our city’s economy and infrastructure, but we know that the sheer number of crossings causes real inconveniences and impacts everyday travel for thousands of residents and visitors.”
Officials provided no timeline for a public rollout of the intended system.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.