Tracks & Structures Overview
The Tracks and Structures Program provides the analytical and technical basis for the development of safety standards and best industry maintenance, inspection, and operating practices to reduce accidents, deaths, injuries, and property damage related to track and other infrastructure failures.
This program will improve analytical and experimental procedures for better understanding the mechanism of fracture development in rail steel under passing loads, improved nondestructive (field) test methods for detecting flaws in rail steel, and improved methods for determining when track is at risk of sudden lateral buckling or of pulling apart from rail longitudinal forces induced by seasonal temperature changes or by tractive or braking forces.
The program also addresses advanced inspection technologies to detect track hazards like track bed weakness, wide gage, and faulty geometry well before accidents can occur, as well as the safe load capacity and structural integrity of bridges. Research results get incorporated into the FRA Track Safety Standards and railroad maintenance practices.
Track and Structures Research work is carried out through grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts with public or private organizations, including institutions of higher learning through FRA’s University Grants Program. The cooperative approach is particularly encouraged because it leverages outside resources, thus minimizing the FRA funding requirements; it reduces the need for demonstration or deployment funding since partners in the development effort may often also be the end product users; and it affords the FRA a better understanding of the safety needs of the railroad industry as new concepts and technologies are put into use in the railroad environment, and has assurance that a high level of concern for safety is included in their early consideration.