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Purdue students create app to help with Columbus train traffic

Editor's note: Columbus city leaders say 22 trains will run through Columbus each day. It was previously reported that the city would see an increase of up to 20 trains per hour.

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- More train traffic is set to hit Columbus soon. CSX expanded the railroad lines for longer and more frequent trains in the area.

Upgrades were just finished on tracks from Louisville to Indianapolis. 22  trains will run through Columbus each day. Now, the city is hoping to come up with solutions to help with the extra traffic headaches and inconvenience for drivers.

"It’s especially critical in the morning when people are trying to get to work or get their kids to school on time," said city engineer Dave Hayward.

The city has been working for some time to come up with solutions, especially for emergency vehicles who can't afford to get stuck behind a long train. Some detours have already been established. The city also plans to construct railroad overpasses. The construction for that won't begin until 2019, so in the meantime, the city was left to find options for people to be able to navigate through the train traffic.

"I live right near the railroad tracks, so I get stopped quite often waiting for trains, so it would be helpful to know when one’s coming," said Richard Perry.

Perry is a student at Purdue Polytechnic. Knowing exactly when a train is coming is exactly what he and three other students are working to find out.

The students are using coding, algorithms, and other tools to develop an app and website that will notify commuters of exactly when a train is on the tracks at a particular intersection. The data will use cameras placed at three intersections where train traffic is the heaviest to determine the trains location and speed. The phone app and website will show three options:

  • Yellow means a train is approaching
  • Red means a train is in the intersection
  • Green means intersection is clear

The yellow indicator will also be able to tell how far a train is away from approaching an intersection. The red indicator will show approximately how much longer the train has to travel through an intersection.

The app will send notifications to users who subscribe, so they won't have to be on their phones, scrolling through an app or website while driving.

The project is still in the early development phases, but it is one-of-a-kind. It's also specific to Columbus.

"It’s clearly a practical application from the real world, which is a great opportunity for us to learn how to make web apps and do some great work for the benefit of the city," said professor Dimitri Gusev.

Once it's complete, the city is hoping commuters will take advantage of the technology. It will likely be free to download.

Students are hoping to app will be complete by the end of the semester and available for download by early 2018. Construction on the railroad overpass will begin in 2019.

You can find more on the train traffic increase by clicking here.