Rail Safety Research & Development

Demonstration Systems

There are a number of Demonstration Systems currently being developed or are under testing for instance:

  • Michigan ITCS Demonstration : includes upgrade of 57 public grade crossings to provide constant warning time and improved or eliminated 21 private grade crossings. System linking crossings to locomotives via the positive train control system has been in daily revenue service operation since April 2001.
  • The North Carolina’s Sealed Corridor assessment is another significant project underway, which applies innovative, low cost techniques to significantly reduce or eliminate incidents of highway vehicles bypassing crossing gates, thereby virtually eliminating grade crossing incidents. Further information about the Sealed Corridor and North Carolina's efforts can be found on the State's web page www.bytrain.org.External Link

Other innovative concepts are being sought for integrated demonstration and assessment for efficacy on revenue corridors through the National Academy of Sciences Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Program and through broad agency announcements (BAA). 

For more on demonstration systems, evaluation tools and evolving technologies, research and solutions such as the use of impenetrable barriers please see e-Library.


GradeDec Crossing Evaluation Tool

The Federal Railroad Administration developed GradeDec,External Link a highway-rail grade crossing investment analysis tool, to provide grade crossing investment decision support. GradeDec provides a full set of standard benefit cost metrics for a rail corridor, a region, or an individual grade crossing. Model output allows a comparative analysis of grade crossing alternatives that are designed to mitigate highway-rail grade crossing accident risk and other components of user costs including highway delay and queuing, air quality, and vehicle operating costs.  

GradeDec is intended to assist state and local transportation planners in identifying the most efficient grade crossing investment strategies. The GradeDec modeling process can encourage public support for grade crossing strategies, including closure and separation, where project success often depends on getting the community involved in the early planning stages. GradeDec computes model output using a range of values for many of the model inputs. This process allows individual stakeholders to influence how different investment options are weighed and evaluated. 

GradeDec implements the corridor approach to reducing accident risk that was developed as part of TEA-21's Next-Generation High-Speed Rail Program. This approach can be an effective means of reducing the overall capital costs involved in constructing facilities for high-speed passenger rail service (at speeds between 111-125 miles per hour), where grade crossing hazards and mitigation measures can be a major cost factor. The corridor approach can be used to demonstrate that acceptable levels of accident risk have been reached for all rail corridors, train types, and speeds. For example, exceptions to the proposed federal rule mandating whistle sounding at all highway rail-grade crossings can be made by showing that appropriate safety measures have been taken to mitigate the additional risk otherwise presented by trains not sounding their horns. GradeDec uses simulation methods to analyze project risk and generate probability ranges for each model output, including benefit cost ratios and net present value. The software also analyzes the sensitivity of project risk to GradeDec 2000 model inputs to inform users which factors have the greatest impact on project risk.

View GradeDec Documentation

User's Manual 2014 Reference Manual 2014 or Workbook 2003 .


Questions concerning GradeDec should be addressed to:

Karen McClure, Policy Analyst 
Office of Policy and Program Development 
(202) 493-6417


Helpful Resources

Engineering for Safer Rail Grade Crossings


  • e-CFR part 222 - Use of Locomotive Horns at Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
  • e-CFR part 229 - Railroad Locomotive Safety Standards
  • e-CFR 234 Subpart E- Emergency Notification Systems for Telephonic Reporting of Unsafe Conditions at Highway-Rail and Pathway Grade Crossings
  • eCFR 234 Subpart F- Highway-Rail and Pathway Crossing Inventory Reporting


State and Local Government Resources