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Monday, June 15, 2020

Q & A on the Smart Cities Initiative for NKY

On Tuesday morning, Eggs N' Issues will tackle the Smart Cities Initiative to improve roads in Campbell County and make them safer overall for pedestrians. (Img: US-27 Smart Corridor)

By Jessie Eden

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is hosting a special Zoom edition of its "Eggs N' Issues event on Tuesday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. (If interested, register here.)


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The "Eggs N' Issues" event will focus on the Smart Cities Initiative to leverage technology in order to serve people throughout Northern Kentucky.

Manager Chris Danforth, Ft. Mitchell Chief of Police Col. Andrew Schierberg and Campbell Co. Fiscal Court Economic Development Director Will Weber will serve as the featured panelists for the webinar. The trio will explain what a Smart City is and how the Smart City Corridor will benefit the Northern Kentucky region.


To help make this happen, NKY city officials stated their support for the project. "We have a signed and recorded interlocal agreement/ memorandum of understanding on file with the KY Secretary of State for the US-27 Smart Corridor with the Cities of Newport, Southgate, Fort Thomas, and Highland Heights as well as the Campbell County Fiscal Court," said Will.




There are also several organizations on board. "Additionally, we have signed letters of support from (in no particular order): Duke Energy, Southbank Partners, Energize KY, NKY Tri-ED, NKY Chamber, OKI, NKU, TANK, St. Elizabeth, and KY Clean Fuels Coalition," said Will.

The project even has a handy YouTube video that explains the idea of a 'Smart City':




FTM had a chance to dive into the issue a little more with Will prior to the event to learn more;

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FTM: 
What would you say is the first project that may be considered out of all of these? Is there one project that sticks out as more pressing than the others?


WILL:
The first “project” that is currently on-going is in Newport on Monmouth Street from the underpass to the Newport/ Southgate city-line. The City of Newport is working with Integrated Engineering to improve this section of the corridor in the right of way through the sidewalks, access management, and street lighting through the use of smart technology. 

The City and Integrated Engineering will work with other community partners such as TANK and KYTC to test the viability of smart bus stops and active transportation and demand management at intersections. 

FTM:
Why do you think these types of projects are important for Campbell County?

WILL:
Since this corridor connects four cities, each city has their own pressing projects that will improve their section of the corridor but overall one consistency is developing a sense of “place” as you enter each city. 




For example, in Southgate the medians will soon undergo landscaping to complete that portion of the project that will certainly enhance the aesthetics entering/ exiting the interstate. While in Highland Heights, the City has noted the safety concern of traversing US-27 east/west and their comprehensive plan has called for a pedestrian bridge across US-27 to connect points of interest.


FTM: 
Anything else you'd like to add about the Smart Cities Initiative?

WILL:
These projects are just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to a “smart” corridor, city, etc. the term can be esoteric and met with some skepticism. Essentially, the US-27 Smart Corridor aims to leverage technology to serve people. 

We are planning this corridor around people and places, instead of cars and traffic- that is for I-471. There are many types of “smart solutions” that could be integrated, but we are focusing on safety, mobility, and economic development to enhance quality of life.




This whole initiative was started to help connect the density of people near NKU to the riverfront and vice-versa. This corridor is not about “how fast can I get there”, but rather “how can I enjoy getting there”. This perspective helped to bring light to the need for infrastructure that allows for multi-modal options (bikes, scooters, buses, shuttles, autonomous vehicles, etc.) 

Furthermore, the general landscape of the commute- enhanced landscape, signage, lighting, intersections, overhead power lines, etc. The smart aspect comes when we look at the potential for a smart data utility grid (similar to what Carnegie Mellon is doing with their neighboring community). 




This grid, created by community partners, would map out the utilities underground with age, size, location, capacity, etc. Therefore, when it comes to updating the infrastructure, the utility partners can plan for improvements together to not only help cut costs but limit the time/ frequency of construction over the years. 

Additionally, above the ground we are discussing and considering several options such as burying overhead utility lines, improved lightning through the type of bulb and motion activated timers to limit the need for light throughout the night, and the integration of sensors on things like garbage cans near intersections that could alert waste companies service is needed through a demand based system instead of a weekly check. 


Lastly, the actual technology integration piece is the hardware/ backbone of the system. At the moment there are no clear-cut signs what the best option would be, but we are having proactive conversations with potential vendors to discuss opportunities to power the smart technology and enhance the service of consumers traversing the corridor and businesses located along the corridor. 

Again, these are just some high level examples and at the center of our conversations are “how are we leveraging technology to serve people?” and “how are we enhancing the sense of place for people?”

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