Macomb County meets Montreal at ITS

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It was only four years ago when I travelled to my first Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress, hosted in Tokyo, Japan. Back then, futurists talked about a world where cars would be driverless and the movement of people and freight will be transformed.

Fast forward to last week, at the ITS World Congress in Montreal, and the concepts of yesterday are disrupting the way we as cities, counties, states and countries use connected technology and big data to change the transportation industry. We are in a unique place in time, at the crosshair where the physical systems (roads, infrastructure, signals and automobiles) are meeting the digital world – and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.

Each year, the ITS World Congress rotates between the European, Asian and North American markets and is a massive gathering for the exchange of ideas and innovation that moves the world. The dominance of mobility technology was prevalent on the showroom floor and on the stage. The message was clear: Michigan is a global leader. Our governor, Rick Snyder, joined the delegation representing Michigan and the leadership at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) under a partnership that is branded “Planet M, where big ideas in mobility are born.”

As an economic developer, I see how these concepts in connected technologies are changing the face of Macomb County. Our workforce is evolving, trying to keep pace with the rapid demand of a talent pipeline not yet matured. A traffic engineer will now need skills in software, hardware and cyber physical systems to grow in this industry.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet more than 30 students from the US and Canada and talk about next-generation mobility careers in cybersecurity. Organized by Mobile Comply, an ITS training company based in Sterling Heights, the conference allowed these students to travel to Montreal to immerse themselves in cybersecurity scenarios that deploy connected technology. They learned about our initiative, the Michigan Automotive and Defense Cyber Assurance Team (MADCAT) and how to engage our industry partners in these new careers. The pathway for these students has been set into motion.

This year, John Abraham from our ITS team within the Macomb County Department of Roads joined me in Montreal. His vision to make Macomb County a “Connected County” is happening. Today, we have more than 150 miles of connected roadways ready for the early adopters and innovators to bring their technologies to our major thoroughfares and into our vehicles. Centered by our traffic operations center, COMTEC, we have a unique infrastructure in place with more than 220 roadside units ready to test in a live environment. As we met with industry game changers like Hitachi, Siemens and Microsoft, it was clear there are greater opportunities to partner with these technology giants.

In June 2018, ITS America will host its annual conference in Detroit, showcasing our best. Macomb County is ready.

 

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Community and business leaders join together for $150 million vision to Innovate Mound Road

Innovate Mound is an initiative to rebuild one of the most important corridors in Southeast Michigan: Mound Road. The vision of the partnership behind this effort is a roadway that incorporates the future of mobility and technology through transforming nine miles of Mound Road into a state-of-the-art corridor. Designed to be an inclusive process and transformation, Innovate Mound is a collaborative effort between Macomb County, the city of Sterling Heights and the city of Warren.

DSC_0662.JPGGaining strong stakeholder support for the project is crucial for securing funding. The group kicked off its public visioning by hosting a stakeholders’ session yesterday, which brought together more than 100 business and community leaders to discuss the possibilities and provide feedback.

Rebuilding Mound Road is critical for many reasons. Most obviously, the road is currently in poor condition. However, instead of simply repaving the road, it benefits the long-term needs of local businesses to have a corridor that matches the level of innovation and technology in the area.

The design considerations that are tentatively in place for this project include complete roadway surface reconstruction, widening north of 17 Mile Road, landscaping, lighting, signs, driveway controls, additions of non-motorized facilities, 10-foot-wide safety path along the bike trail or corridor, connections to trail network and improvements to transit stops.

Mound Road could also be equipped with smart street technology to include computerized traffic signal systems, real-time traffic speed monitoring, cameras, communications to signals and more. This technology would be able to increase emergency management and enhance safety and mobility.

Whatever ideas emerge from visioning, the need to act is urgent. The average life expectancy of a roadway in Michigan is about 25 years. The selected portion of Mound Road is nearly 30 years old and in poor condition. Each year, Macomb County spends between $3 to $4 million solely on maintenance and patching this section in Band-Aid-style fixes.

The estimated investment needed to truly innovate one of Macomb County’s key corridors is expected to be approximately $150 million. To raise these funds, Innovate Mound has identified several federal sources which could help to fund project costs.  These sources include Macomb County, new state infrastructure funds, TIFA (Corridor Improvement Authority), private funding, grants and new federal funds. Specific grants being considered are the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) and Defense Access Road (DAR).

Collaboration will be key to the project’s success.  To become a part of the transformation or for more information on the Innovate Mound project, visit InnovateMound.org. You can also follow on Twitter @InnovateMound and join the conversation with #InnovateMound.

rea-john-paulJohn Paul Rea, AICP, is the director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.