By Scott Bolthouse — Hub Editor — ScottBolthouse@HuronHub.com
Motorists frustrated by constantly blocked railroad crossings in Huron Township will be relieved to know that they can now check their route before leaving for their destination.
Cameras placed near six railroad crossing in the area are currently broadcasting live video showing whether the crossings are open or blocked.
The crossings included in the feed are at Sibely Road and I-275, Pennsylvania Road, Huron River Drive and Sterling, South Huron at I-275, Willow Road, and the crossing in Waltz.
To access the video, residents can download a smartphone app called ACTi Mobile Client from their phone’s app store.
Once the app is downloaded, users can add the Huron Township camera feed by tapping the “+” icon and then adding the following credentials into the app:
After the credentials are typed in, tap the green arrow to add the feed, tap the added Huron Township server, then tap “all devices.”
The feed should then appear in the app showing all six railroad crossings.
Instructions on how to download the app can also be accessed at huron.vrteamviewer.com.
The Huron Township Department of Public safety announced Wednesday to both local media and TV news networks that the cameras are public.
However, they’ve actually been using the system internally since December 2016 for emergency dispatch.
“The railroad traffic cameras give our dispatch personnel the ability to direct our first responders immediately as the call is dispatched as to what is the best response route available in real time. Our dispatch staff is not only able to tell a responding first responder if a certain crossing is blocked, but which direction the train is travelling. In many cases, they can predict which tracks will be open for our police and fire staff to cross by viewing the cameras,” said Public Safety Director Everette Robbins.
Robbins said that over the past several months, the installation of the cameras has led to speculation by some residents that the cameras were put in as a tool for police to issue traffic citations.
“I want to make it clear to everyone that the sole purpose of these cameras is for the safety and convenience of our residents and everyone that lives, works, and visits our community. We have never had the intention, nor do we now, to issue traffic citations using the railroad traffic cameras. I know that the train issue along with ongoing traffic projects affect the day to day quality of life of our residents and we are hopeful that this will help make getting around the community a little easier,” he said.
“To my knowledge, we are the first community to have this technology up and running. We have had several other area departments inquire about this access and hopefully we will see this spread out to other communities as well,” he added.
Robbins also said that the Public Safety Department has been working with local businesses in the community that are the source for many of the train delays, and that one of the other issues resulting from blocked crossings is the back-up of traffic, especially from car haulers, on and near Sibley Road.
“We have unfortunately not had much success at getting the local business responsible for many of these issues to assist with any tangible solution for relief, although it is not from a lack of trying on our part,” he sad. “We have met with them numerous times and will continue to do so. We have taken a zero-tolerance approach with car haulers and car manufacturers using our roads and exit ramps in the area. We have taken a high number enforcement actions against the car-haulers and I believe we are beginning to see the fruits of our labor on that end. We won’t wait for someone to get hurt or killed and will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach.”
The Department of Public Safety recently contacted TDSI rail yard and requested a schedule for incoming and outgoing trains.
Their response, according to Robbins, is that trains arrive on the tracks daily at 12:15 p.m., depart at 1:45 p.m., arrive again at 4:45 p.m., and depart at 6:15 p.m.
The camera feeds were made possible by a partnership between the Department of Public Safety and internet technology company XG Tech Services.
XG Tech Services says they designed the system specifically for Huron Township’s railroad crossings.
“XG Tech Services’ Bernie Yoscovits, CEO, and Jonathan Giles, CIO, developed the xCaliber Camera systems specifically to address the pain Huron Township was experiencing with visibility of the townships railroad crossings. Yoscovits and Giles engineered completely self-contained, wire free units that are solar powered. The systems are capable of streaming in real time, independent of Wi-Fi or wired internet access, through a proprietary secured network,” the company said in a statement.
Robbins hopes that the camera system, although not a perfect solution, will still make it easier on residents and visitors who travel over the many railroad crossings in the township on a daily basis.
“We realize that this is not the end all be all solution to the train problem here in our community. I think it will benefit our residents as they travel the community. I truly hope that our residents will use this technology to find a way to visit and patron the businesses within our community. It is not lost on me the impact the train and traffic issues have on our small business owners. Hopefully, we can all can come together and support them,” Robbins said.
“As with any technology, I want our residents to show patience as we continuously work to improve and upgrade these services over the upcoming months. There may be times where the link or a specific crossing could be down from time to time. The community has my promise that we will continue to move forward on this issue and that it is being addressed at all levels of the Township Government here in Huron Township.”
This article has been updated