Camera and sound sensors installed on public rights of way feed information to solar powered sign

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) — New Haven resident Bob Byrd lives on the south side of the city and knows what it’s like to sit in his car and wait on a train.

It happens often enough. When Byrd is headed to downtown New Haven, trains block the tracks at Landin Road close to where it intersects North River Road. He’s waited anywhere from five minutes to 60, he says.

But now, he doesn’t have to sit in traffic and make the decision to turn around and divert to State Road 930 or Maplecrest Road.

A large solar powered sign installed at the behest of the City of New Haven lets him know how long the wait will be.

“Having the TRAINFO there, (having that) information available to me, when I hit the interchange there I can make the decision and not have to sit in traffic,” Byrd said Wednesday when New Haven Mayor Steve McMichael held a press conference to unveil the $100,000 city-funded project.

“We really sought out a solution to the train problem in New Haven,” McMichael said. Cities can’t build infrastructure over or under the tracks and due to a State Supreme Court ruling in 2018, there’s no fining or ticketing trains either, he said.

As a result, McMichael and his staff found the Canadian based company, TRAINFO, that offers technology to monitor trains and inform the public at the crossing. The message board was installed Jan. 10, but sensors have been tracking data since November.

He sees more installations by the end of the year at Broadway, State Street, Doyle Road and Green Street.

Sensors installed 12 feet high on public rights of way use Bluetooth technology and pick up information on the acceleration and deceleration of oncoming trains, according to Neil Ternowetsky, TRAINFO’s chief technology officer and a company founder.

“We don’t have to interfere with railroad operations,” Ternowetsky said Wednesday at the news conference, adding that the technology used at the New Haven site relies on cameras and acoustics to monitor activities of the crossings. The sensors are adjacent to the tracks, not on them.

The sensors, which can be installed in hours, are operational in 20 U.S. cities, soon to be 25, Ternowetsky said. And cities are expanding the use of them, possibly up to 60 or 70 instead of the initial one installed. Federal infrastructure money should be available for funding, he added.

Patrick Zaharako, Fort Wayne’s city engineer, said there are between 30 and 40 train crossings in the city, and his agency is interested in the new technology.

“We’ll definitely keep an eye on it and see if it’s something to benefit us at all,” Zaharako said.

Representatives from the Allen County Highway Department told WANE 15 there are 91 documented train crossings in Allen County.

William R. Miller, public safety director for Norfolk Southern, said the company is working with cities. Miller and Derek J. Sublette, executive director of government relations for the railroad company, attended the press conference.