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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-TS-86-215
Date: September 1986

Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook




This handbook provides general information on railroad-highway crossings, including characteristics of the crossing environment and users, and the physical and operational improvements for safe and efficient use by both highway and rail traffic. The handbook will be of interest to Federal, State and local highway agency personnel, railroad officials, consulting engineers and educators involved with railroad-highway grade crossing safety and operation.

The late William J. Hedley contributed generously of his background and experience toward the completion of this handbook.

This is the second printing of the second edition of the handbook. The only change from the first printing is a revision of Figure 24, page 103, to reflect the guidance for placement of the railroad crossing pavements Marking symbol in relation to the location of the advance warning sign.

A standard distribution of the handbook was made to the FHWA Region and Division offices, the State highway agencies and the T2 Centers in 1986. Copies of the handbook were also provided to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Association of American Railroads for their use. A limited number of copies are available from the Railroads, Utilities and Programs Branch, HNG-12, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C. 20590 and the RD&T Report Center, HRD-11, Federal Highway Administration, 6300 Georgetown Pike, McLean, Virginia 22101-2396. Copies may be purchased from the National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Virginia 22161.

Stanley R. Byington
Director, Office of Implementation
Federal Highway Administration


Railroad Highway Grade Crossing Handbook

PDF Version (13.50 MB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®



1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Railroad–Highway Grade Crossing Handbook – 2nd Edition

5. Report Date

September 1986

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

B.H. Tustin, H. Richards, H. McGee, and R. Patterson

8. Performing Organization Report No.
9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Tustin Enterprises
2903 Maple Lane
Fairfax, Virginia 22031

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

FCP Category 1Z (A)

11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Implementation
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101–2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Final Report
Sept. 1983 to Sept. 1986

14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes

FHWA Contract Manager (COTR): Eric Munley (HRT–20)
FHWA Office of Engineering Contact: Jim Overton (HNG–12)
FRA Office of Safety Analysis: Tom P. Woll (RRS–21)

16. Abstract

Rail–Highway grade crossing safety and operational problems involve two components––the highway and the railroad. The highway component involves drivers, pedestrians, vehicles and roadway segments in the vicinity of the crossing. The railroad component involves the trains and the tracks at the crossing. The element of risk present at a given location is a function of the characteristics of the two components and their corresponding elements. Several formulas are described which seek to quantify the degree of risk, identify the locations most urgently in need of improvement, and prioritize the hazardous locations which have been isolated. Various types of at–grade crossing improvements described include active warning devices, passive warning devices, sight distance improvements, operational improvements, and crossing surface improvements. Grade separations, or crossing closures are suggested as improvement solutions where either extremely high or low demand for the crossing exists. The ultimate choice for a crossing improvement is determined by balancing the benefits in accident reduction and reduced user costs against costs for the improvement. Procedures, models and computer programs which will assist making these selections are described.

17. Key Words

Grade Crossing, Railroad, Traffic Control, Crossing Surfaces

18. Distribution Statement

No restriction, This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia 22161

19. Security Classification (of this report)


20. Security Classification (of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price

Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized



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Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101