Editorial—The choice for 2020 is clear with new railroad bridge app

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
Bill Wilson

George Washington himself might as well have been on the ballot. Prefer someone who has not been dead for 200 years? OK, Bill Clinton. Oh, yeah, he served his two terms. How about … no, I will not go there. 

Do not despair, I am not here to argue or debate on who should be the next president, but for the past 10 years or so one thing about the election has tied my cranium up in knots. Why do we still rely on paper ballots? You know, the same form we used at this country’s first presidential election, and the same form that was widely used up until 2000, when all those hanging Chad’s entered our lives. 

Are we concerned about hackers? I think we have some of the best cyber security geeks this world has to offer, so you can’t tell me hacking would be an issue. Build enough firewalls to contain a cyber nuclear blast. It can, and should, be done. 

Heck, you can even create an entire government agency out of it. That means more jobs. Hmm … maybe I should run for president? 

You log into an official website, plug in your voter identification number, and make your picks online. Results are instant, mail-in ballots are eliminated, paper ballots are left in the past, and the entire process is safe. One can even develop an app. OK, I know paper ballots play a prominent role in recounts. Again, let the geeks earn their pocket protection badge and figure out a way. 

Let’s dial this whole one-touch process down a little bit. Ever since I began campaigning for the railroad (I joined RT&S back in 2019) I have come across dozens and dozens of stories involving the top half of a truck getting crumpled like paper due to a low-clearance railroad viaduct. In fact, just recently as I was trying to get a jumpstart on my Monday news coverage the top story on my Google search was all about a truck getting stuck under a bridge. 

The Onondaga Lake Parkway railroad bridge in Liverpool, N.Y., has been a hazard for trucks and other vehicles over the years. There have been 13 accidents due to the bridge’s vertical clearance over the past decade. 

However, help is on the way. Rand McNally’s GPS unit has designated the Onondaga Lake Parkway route as a non-truck corridor. It’s happening in other places, too. According to Rand McNally, drivers can input truck sizes and what they are hauling into a GPS device and it will map out the safest route … one that will accommodate the vertical height of a truck. 

I think this idea alone should run for political office. OK, maybe not, but it is brilliant. GPS technology has made our travel lives enormously simple. I still do not know how I got from point A to point B using a paper map. I made it work with a lot of effort, but the genius of today’s technology is once-complicated tasks are now crystallized in speed and instant results. 

I believe the only way you can take advantage of Rand McNally’s GPS vertical clearance feature is by paying for the unit, which can cost as much as $500. This needs to be converted into an app immediately. For $2.99, haulers, delivery workers, etc., can make the purchase and steer clear of low-hanging obstacles. Officials also could use it to make decisions on raising the structure or lowering the road in the future. 

This certainly has my vote.

Categories: Bridge/Retaining Walls/Tunnels, Freight, Passenger, Rail News, Railroad News, Safety/Training, Technology, Track Structure
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