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Bridges & Structures

The memo was superseded on 04/16/2013 by Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Grade Separation Highway Structures over or under Railroads.

MEMORANDUM
Subject: ACTION: Railroad Guidelines for Design and Construction of Grade Separation Underpass and Overhead Structures Date: February 21, 2001
From: /s/ Original Signed by
James D. Cooper
Director of Bridge Technology
Reply to:
Attn. of:
HIBT-30
To: Division Administrators

Attached, for your information, is our response to Mr. David Pope, Chairman of the AASHTO Highway Committee on Bridges and Structures on a railroad matter of concern to State bridge engineers. The matter involves two Union Pacific (UP) railroad guidelines. These guidelines increase UP's requirement for clearances, bridge width and other features. As this has given some States difficulty because of the increased cost, Mr. Pope requested our assistance on applicability of these Guidelines for Federal-aid funded projects.

The two new guidelines include the following:

  • Union Pacific's (UP) Guidelines for Design of Highway Separation Structures over Railroad - includes UP's current standards and requirements concerning design and construction of new or modified existing grade separation overhead structures.
  • Union Pacific's Guidelines for Design and Construction of Grade Separation Underpass Structures - supplements applicable sections of the American Railway Engineering Association (AREA) Manual of Recommended Practice in connection with the design of ballast deck railway bridges.

Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 646, Subpart B, contains regulations on rail-highway projects and prescribes policies and procedures for advancing Federal-aid projects involving railroad facilities. Please note the following:

  • §646.212 covers the limits of eligibility for Federal-aid funding. Federal-aid funds are not eligible to participate in costs incurred solely for the benefit of the railroad.
  • §646.214(a)(1) covers facilities that the railroad is responsible for operating and maintaining. These facilities are to conform to the specifications and design standards used by the railroad in its normal practice, subject to approval by the State transportation agency and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  • §646.214(a)(2) covers facilities that the transportation agency is responsible for operating and maintaining. These facilities are to conform to the specifications, design standards, and guidelines used by the transportation agency in its normal practice for Federal-aid projects.
  • §646.216(d) covers State-railroad agreements. An agreement in writing between the State highway agency and the railroad company is specified where construction of a Federal-aid project requires use of railroad properties or adjustments to railroad facilities. With this agreement in place any conflicts should be minimal.

Please contact Ray McCormick at (202) 366-4675 if further information or clarification is needed.

Attachment

U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Federal Highway Administration

Refer to: HIBT-30

Mr. David Pope
Chairman, AASHTO Highway Committee on Bridges and Structures
Wyoming Department of Transportation
5300 Bishop Boulevard
Cheyenne, WY 82009-3340

Dear Mr. Pope:

This is in reply to your letter of July 8, 1999, to Mr. David H. Densmore requesting assistance concerning Union Pacific (UP) Railroad Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Grade Separation Underpass and Overhead Structures. I first must apologize for the delay in providing this response.

You cited three main areas of concern about Federal participation under the UP guidelines, namely railing/fencing requirements for highways over railroads; additional space for tracks and maintenance roads; and minimum vertical clearance requirements for concrete structures. I will begin by summarizing the regulations that provide the basis for our answers on each point.

Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 646, Subpart B, contains our regulations on rail-highway projects and prescribes policies and procedures for advancing Federal-aid projects involving railroad facilities. Our responses to the Bridge Engineer Group's concerns depend on which provision of Subpart B is operative:

  • §646.214(a)(1) covers facilities that the railroad is responsible for operating and maintaining. These facilities shall conform to the specifications and design standards used by the railroad in its normal practice, subject to approval by the State transportation agency and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  • §646.214(a)(2) covers facilities that the transportation agency is responsible for operating and maintaining. These facilities shall conform to the specifications, design standards, and guidelines used by the transportation agency in its normal practice for Federal-aid projects.

As I will discuss in response to each of the Group's concerns, the Federal share of project costs is determined under §646.212.

With that background, I will address each concern.

  1. "Railing parapet requirements and fencing (Highway over Railroad)"

    For a highway bridge over a railroad, the governing regulation is §646.214(a)(2), The State transportation agency should follow its normal specifications, design standards, and guidelines for Federal-aid highway projects. For highways on the National Highway System (NHS), the States must comply with AASHTO standards, which explicitly incorporate railroad standards. Both AASHTO's Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges and LRFD Bridge Design Specifications contain the following provisions:

    Structures designed to pass over a railroad shall be in accordance with standards established and used by the affected railroad in its normal practice. These overpass structures shall comply with applicable federal, state, county, and municipal laws.

    Regulations, codes, and standards should, as a minimum, meet the specifications design standards of the American Railway Engineering Association, the Association of American Railroads, and AASHTO.

    Thus, under AASHTO's standards for use on NHS highways over railroads, the railroad's standards would govern for railing parapets and fencing, regardless of whether the facility is owned by the railroad or the transportation agency (i.e., whether the project is covered by §646.214(a)(1) or (2)).

    For all federally funded non-NHS highways including those over railroads, the States' design and construction standards are to be used. Therefore, the railing parapet and fencing requirements would be governed by the State's standards, even if they differ from the railroad standards.

    Within these standards, we would determine the limits of eligibility for Federal-aid funding under §646.212. For railing parapets and fencing, we can participate in all costs that are incurred in complying with the applicable design standards under §646.214. On a project involving an NHS highway over a railroad, the AASHTO standards (i.e., the railroad standards) would be met and we would reimburse the State for the Federal share of costs. For a federal aid non-NHS highway over a railroad, the Federal share could be limited if the State goes beyond its own normal standards to meet higher railroad standards. This is because §646.212(a)(1) prohibits the use of Federal funds for costs incurred on a Federal-aid project solely for the benefit of the railroad.

  2. "Additional spacing for tracks and maintenance roads"

    Under §646.212(a)(2), our regulation addresses Federal participation in the cost of providing additional space for railroad operations. As noted, we cannot participate in costs incurred solely for the benefit of the railroad. However, §646.212(a)(2) provides that if the railroad establishes to the satisfaction of the State transportation agency and the FHWA that it has definite demand and plans for installation of additional tracks within a reasonable time, for grade separation structures Federal funds may be used to provide space for more tracks than are in place. If the FHWA is not satisfied regarding the demand and plans, our participation would be limited to the cost of spanning the existing tracks.

    Regarding maintenance roads, Union Pacific guideline specifies, "For all grade separation underpass structures, an access roadway or bridge maintenance structure shall be provided for Union Pacific Railroad Company off-track maintenance equipment." As stated above, if this is for the sole benefit of the railroad Federal funds would not be eligible.

  3. "Minimum clearance requirement for concrete structures - 16.5 - 17.5. Sacrificial beam over highways"

    The Group's concern cites separation structures for a NHS route under a railroad. The governing regulation is 646.214. Since the structures concerned are railroad bridges, the standards that apply call for compliance with standards established and used by the affected railroad in its normal practice subject to approval by the State and FHWA. In practicality, if the railroads want to protect their bridges against over-height vehicles by providing sacrificial beams, as long as they meet the vertical clearance criteria established by the State for the specific route under the railroad bridge, they should be allowed to do so as this would not restrict any highway traffic on that route.

    This work, however, would be solely for the benefit of the railroad, and per §646.212(a)(1) the Federal funds would not be eligible. The railroad would have to cover any costs incurred.

Conflicts on these matters should be minimal when the project involves an NHS highway over a railroad. Such projects are subject to AASHTO standards that adopt the railroad's normal practice. For Federal-aid non-NHS highways, conflicts may occur. As a practical matter, any conflicts between the railroad and the State must be resolved in advance. In fact, 23 §646.214(d) requires an agreement in writing between the State transportation agency and the railroad for Federal-aid projects where the project involves the use of railroad properties or adjustment to railroad facilities.

In view of the Bridge Engineer Groups's concerns, we will provide guidance on these matters to our Division Administrators so they will be able to apply a consistent interpretation of eligibility limits on Federal-aid projects involving the UP or other railroads.

Although I again apologize for the delay in providing these comments, I hope they will prove helpful. Please feel free to contact Mr. Ray McCormick of this office at 202-366-4675. We would be happy to meet with you or the Bridge Engineers Group to discuss these issues further at your convenience.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ original signed by
James D. Cooper, P.E.
Director of Bridge Technology

Updated: 06/26/2013
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