Highway-Rail Grade Crossings Overview
Highway-railroad grade crossings are intersections where a highway crosses a railroad at-grade. They are also called level crossings in other countries such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
To avoid collisions, traffic control devices are required at grade crossings just like intersecting roads need stop signs or traffic signals. Traffic control devices used at crossings include warning signs, crossbucks (the familiar x-shaped signs that mean yield to the train), pavement markings, and, in some locations, bells, flashing lights, and gates as described in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
Grade crossings may be public or private. Public grade crossings are roadways that are under the jurisdiction of, and maintained by, a public authority. Private grade crossings are on privately owned roadways, such as on a farm or industrial area, and is intended for use by the owner or by the owner's licensees and invitees. A private crossing is not intended for public use and is not maintained by a public highway authority. In 2005, there were 147,681 public crossings and 94,583 private crossings.
Collisions between highway vehicles and trains have been, until recently, the greatest source of injuries and fatalities in the railroad industry. Since 1994, as a result of the Grade Crossing Action Plan, the number of fatalities and injuries at grade crossings has decreased by more than 40 percent while trespassing fatalities decreased by approximately 9 percent. The number of trespassers killed and injured along the railroad's right-of-way now exceed those killed and injured at grade crossings. The FRA Office of Railroad Safety develops detailed statistics on the railroad industry's safety.
This site provides an overview of the research and development and policy information on grade crossings available within the Federal Railroad Administration and links to the FRA Office of Safety. Links are provided to additional sources of information on grade crossing safety and research in other Federal and State government agencies, universities, the rail industry, and non-profit groups like Operation Lifesaver.