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Innovative techniques that streamline processes, coordination, and partnering between transportation agencies and railroads.

Railroad-DOT Mitigation Strategies (R16)


Each year, transportation agencies construct hundreds of highway projects that cross over, under, or parallel to railroad rights-of-way, requiring extensive coordination between the organizations responsible for these structures. Although most projects go smoothly, delays in development and construction do occur. Railroads must carefully evaluate transportation agency projects in terms of safety, engineering, and operational impacts both during construction and for decades afterward. For agencies, delays incurred while waiting for railroad reviews and agreements can increase project costs and extend renewal needs for users. With railroad volumes projected to grow, the need for project coordination will continue to increase. Cementing mutual understanding and streamlining processes will save money and time for both railroads and public agencies.


The collection of model agreements, sample contracts, training materials, and standardized best practices developed through SHRP2 enable public agencies and railroads to identify and circumvent sources of conflict, and develop memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to advance projects. These templates reflect railroad and public agency perspectives, processes, budgets, funding, and good practices.

The report Strategies for Improving the Project Agreement Process Between Highway Agencies and Railroads includes the following model documents to expedite negotiations.

  • Partnering Memorandum of Understanding - a nonbinding agreement that can drive development of shared understandings, vocabulary, and definition of success, as well as expected performance.
  • Master Project Agreement - a legally binding agreement with “boilerplate” provisions that both parties can incorporate by reference into all following agreements. It also lays out funding responsibilities in partnering, particularly how the public agency will compensate the railroad for required reviews and related activities, a common source of conflict.
  • Preliminary Engineering Agreement - brief project details can be inserted into this standard preliminary engineering (PE) agreement to quickly authorize engineering reviews by the railroad, and expedite PE for the public agency.
  • Resurfacing Agreements - two model agreements, one for federally-funded projects and one for state-funded projects, that reflect the common needs of public agencies and railroads when resurfacing highway sections at railroad crossings, including railroad-specific issues and solutions to deliver the necessary smooth transitions to the adjacent pavement sections.
  • Highway Overpass Agreement - a standard agreement with provisions that reflect safety and operational requirements critical to this type of project.
  • Warning Devices Agreement - a standard agreement specific to projects involving installation, maintenance, improvements, and replacement of warning devices such as gates and lights.
  • Pipe and Wire Agreement - a type of agreement required for installation, construction, or maintenance of drainage pipes, pipelines, utility lines, and other linear structures that intersect a railway. The frequency of pipe and wire projects has led to standardized agreements and approaches to construction and maintenance.

Railroad-DOT Mitigation Strategies has also been selected to be one of FHWA's Every Day Counts-3 initiatives, so a wide variety of support is available to help agencies and railroads interested in using this product.


Railroad volumes are expected to continue to grow, increasing the importance of effective project coordination between public highway departments and railroads. Railroad-DOT Mitigation Strategies cements understanding of each agency’s needs and streamlines the coordination process, saving both time and money. Road users will also benefit from on-budget, rapid highway renewal.

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