Predictive Mobility: Wisconsin Rail Congestion and Safety Improvement

Project At-a-Glance

Rail remains the most effective means to carry large amounts of freight, but increasing rail and highway traffic pose enormous congestion and safety issues at grade crossings. This PILOT Study aims at building a pathway to modern connected vehicle infrastructure and mobile communication infrastructure while also deploying variable messaging signage and transit integration in order to have a positive impact on: Public Safety, Commerce, the Environment and People. The system will be paid for with commercial and Federal grant funds with no expected direct costs from local municipalities.

Figure 1: Traffic Congestion on Beloit Road in Janesville, WI

Project Plan

We Propose to implement a partial Predictive Mobility solution in the Southeast Wisconsin Counties of Waukesha, Milwaukee, Washington, Ozaukee, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha, using products and services from a collection of respected traffic solution and telecommunication vendors. The PILOT will implement Predictive Mobility at 60 of the highest priority crossings (out of 4000 in the State). These priority crossings have greater than 9000 AADT and have high volume Class I rail activity (CP, CN, UP). The implementation involves placement of sensors at these priority crossings, the addition of these crossings to the LinqThingz Android/Apple mobile applications, Access to LinqThingz API for Computer Aided Dispatch, and Variable Message Signage at the top 5 priority crossings (AADT greater than 15,000). The study will include quarterly reports comparing changes in crossing behavior from a 3rd Party traffic engineering company and academic institutions. Community feedback will by measured through a 3rd Party media company.

Figure 2: Heat map of 60 priority crossings in Southeast Wisconsin prioritized by AADT.
Figure 3: Zoomed in area indicated by box in Figure 2.

Expected Benefits

Cross bucks were patented in 1867 when roads were dirt and traffic was horses. This project strives to bring together Government, Railroad, Telecommunication, and Commercial organizations to provide a rapid, low-cost and sustainable solution to a significant transportation problem. We expect a maximum ROI to the Southeast Wisconsin community of $250M+ per year, after a complete roll out, in reduced carbon emissions, fuel usage, people and commercial productivity, improved emergency response and fewer accidents and deaths at rail crossings. Initial projections show that the top 20% of the crossings represent more than 50% of the problem, meaning we expect significant results and ROI on this three year PILOT.

Figure 4: Benefits based on AADT calculation from WisDOT and estimated rail traffic. Note: above calculations are limited to crossings in the pilot, not all roads/crossings in selected counties.
Figure 5: Detailed calculations based on AADT for priority crossings in Southeast Wisconsin.

Predictive Mobility

Predictive Mobility solves the problem of highway traffic congestion and blocked emergency vehicles at grade level rail crossings by providing advanced warning and the ability to avoid blocked crossings altogether.

About the Calculations

Rail congestion is a growing problem across the US. In this study, we specifically looked at the problem in Waukesha County. We performed the analysis following the Department of Transportation studies at the federal and state level, summarized on our site here.

A Report to Congress

Rail congestion is a growing problem across the US. A study in Decatur, Illinois demonstrates that 97% of its people are chronically plagued with train-related delays. In 2017, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning found that motorists were delayed over 7,500 hours every weekday, costing residents $58 million annually in lost productivity. A study in San Antonio, Texas demonstrated that this is a $1.5B problem, and the traditional bridge-or-tunnel solution would cost an astounding $2.5B. Congestion and emergency response delays at rail crossings have a significant national impact as described in a 2021 Senate report. see