HOUGHTON/HANCOCK – Summer in the Copper Country means an increase in traffic. Those traveling north through Hancock, Calumet or up to Keweenaw County are more likely to notice the difference. Everyone in the area can understand the frustration of getting stuck at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge while ships or construction require it to go up. But what if the lift bridge could send you a tweet when it’s being raised or lowered? A couple from Fort Collins, Colorado developed a notification system that alerts drivers when the bridge is in motion.
“So one of things that went into deciding in the program, when to send the alert. I actually send, the program sends the alert, quite a bit early into the bridge movement process. And the initial alert says the bridge is going up. And when you look at the picture, you see the bridge has moved just a little bit. It’s not totally obvious, its not up to even it’s full range of travel. But that was done with the intent of getting the alert as soon as possible.” – Jim Haselmaier, Lift Bridge Alert Developer
Jim’s wife Kathy is a Michigan Tech alumnus. After seeing social media posts of the raised bridge, the two looked for ways to connect to a live camera that would record bridge movement. Jim said the solution was easier to engineer than a Train Alert system he worked on in Fort Collins.
“My wife and I we kinda joke about how similar it is to the Train Alert we developed here in Fort Collins. So I started looking at ways we could get views of the bridge, and we knew MTU has a live webcam. And so I wrote a program that looks at those pictures, and based on those changes, the program can decide whether those changes mean there’s a change in the bridge status.” – Jim Haselmaier, Lift Bridge Alert Developer
Lift Bridge Alert can be found on Twitter right now, and the notification system is fully live. There may be some adjustments made over the next few weeks. If you are interested in knowing when the bridge is up, or are looking for some tips on navigating the bridge, check them out on twitter at liftbridgealert.