When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

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When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby maddoxdy » Sat Apr 18, 2015 10:54 am

I have been told (unsure of validity or origin) that a grade crossing MUST have cross bucks to be a legal grade crossing. This is important in my work as I drive a bus, I must stop at grade crossings. The exception are 'Exempt' crossing, but that's another question. There have been crossings that have been abandoned and thus no longer affect my driving, although it seems to take the rails actually being removed for the company to allow us not to stop there. I have noticed that the cross bucks are immediately (or so) taken down and any signals are turned 90 degrees. There is one crossing in Morrisville, PA just east of Pennsylvania Av & Bridge St that has tracks, stop lines on both sides, and RR Xing pavement markings on one side, no other signage. I have always assumed that this was an abandoned line, but still dutifully stopped there as per company policy. The other day I saw a couple of covered hoppers parked about 200 yards south of the crossing. Maybe this line isn't so abandoned after all? If it is abandonded, could a train still use the crossing?

Thanks for any insight,
Doug Maddox
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Watchman318 » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:43 pm

Under the federal law, (49 CFR 392.10), certain vehicles must stop for all crossings except under certain exceptions. Two of the exceptions are tracks with a sign that says "abandoned," or certain tracks with an "exempt" sign.
For crossings so marked, if a train was going to cross the road, the crew would know by employee timetable, bulletin order, or other instructions that they must stop and flag the crossing.

I don't know what the penalty is (or if there is one) for a violation of the federal law, but my state has a law similar to §392.10, and it's a misdemeanor (versus "only" a traffic violation) if a bus driver or other operator who's required to stop fails to do so. It gets worse for them if they don't stop and thereby end up "failing to yield" to a train.
The PA law (75 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3342) and the Maine law are worded pretty similar to the federal law as far as what vehicles are required to stop. The Maine law requires train crews to stop and "flag across" if there are no automatic signals. I didn't read the PA statute thoroughly enough to see if train crews are required to "stop and protect" at exempt crossings. (It's only "crossing protection" if motorists pay attention to it and comply with it.)

Even if the signals are turned away from drivers' view, you might still want to stop unless there's a sign saying the crossing is exempt or officially abandoned (and use your hazard flashers), because the minimum fine jumps from $100 to $200 for not stopping or for not using hazard flashers.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby maddoxdy » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:46 pm

Thanks Watchman318.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby litz » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:06 pm

I would never make an assumption that a track is abandoned and unused unless the rail physically was not present.

at any time, even an abandoned railroad, may have traffic, for instance for inspection purposes, or perhaps a detour due to issues elsewhere in the system.

At to the topic question, the answer is simple : if it has crossbucks and a DOT number, it's an official crossing.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Watchman318 » Mon Apr 20, 2015 4:50 pm

litz wrote:I would never make an assumption that a track is abandoned and unused unless the rail physically was not present.
But the federal law allows for that assumption (presumption?) if the crossing has a sign saying it's abandoned.

at any time, even an abandoned railroad, may have traffic, for instance for inspection purposes, or perhaps a detour due to issues elsewhere in the system.
Good point. As you noted, unless the rail has been taken up, the line could be put back into use at any time.f it's not required by law, as in my state, I would hope the railroad employees would know to make sure road traffic had stopped before proceeding over the crossing.
There's a lot of stuff in Title 49 (CFR) about trains stopping at crossings with actual or reported malfunctions of automatic signals (either inoperative or falsely activating), but nothing I can find about abandoned or exempt crossings being put back into use. If you drive up to such a crossing, it's probably best to at least slow down and make sure "the course is clear," as in Sec. 392.11.
In some places, drivers might be required to stop for an exempt crossing if their view of the track is blocked.

At to the topic question, the answer is simple : if it has crossbucks and a DOT number, it's an official crossing.
The OP's underlying question was whether he had to stop the bus for a particular crossing. Even closed crossings still have a DOT inventory number, but it's probably not displayed anywhere. The crossbucks won't be taken down until it's made impassable for vehicles.
I've seen a number of private crossings with no crossbucks, but all the ones I know of (other than in a railroad yard) have a regular highway stop sign ("R1-1") over an advance warning sign (W10-1) and a white "PRIVATE CROSSING" plaque.

I just discovered that federal law also requires all operators of commercial vehicles (ones not required to stop for every crossing) to slow down enough that they can stop if necessary. Drivers can end up with a 60-day disqualification on their CDL for violating that one. I think most states have something similar, maybe for all vehicles and not just commercial, but a lot of motorists seem to think if there aren't any lights flashing, they can just go zipping over the crossing as if it wasn't even there. :(
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Passenger » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:49 am

Watchman318 wrote: ... a lot of motorists seem to think if there aren't any lights flashing, they can just go zipping over the crossing as if it wasn't even there. :(


And very frequently when I don't act like that at a railroad crossing, some idiot behind me leans on his horn.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby litz » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:52 pm

The simple fact of the matter is this ...

Do you want to take the chance that nothing is coming down that track?

Abandoned or not, if you guess wrong, and get hit ... guess who is at fault? If not legally, most certainly via liability in civil court.

I wouldn't cross ANY railroad track, without being sure it's clear, without being able to stop if not.

If the guy behind you blows his horn, that's his problem.

And in almost every state, if they run into you, it's also their problem (called "following too closely").

Play it safe, and stop-look-listen ... and live.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Passenger » Fri Apr 24, 2015 12:00 pm

litz wrote:If the guy behind you blows his horn, that's his problem.


Absolutely.

But it's so predictably annoying.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby BR&P » Fri Apr 24, 2015 5:11 pm

Watchman318 wrote: but nothing I can find about abandoned or exempt crossings being put back into use.


Also note there is a distinction between abandoned and exempt. Exempt only means that vehicles such as buses and hazmat tankers are not required to stop. At most exempt crossings, as has been said, the train has to stop before proceeding. It does not necessarily mean the crossing is not in use.
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Watchman318 » Sat Apr 25, 2015 12:50 am

litz wrote:Play it safe, and stop-look-listen ... and live.
Good point. Safety beats "center-punched" any day. :wink:
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Re: When is a grade crosing an official grade crossing

Postby Statkowski » Thu Jun 04, 2015 2:45 pm

When in doubt, state highway laws, rules and regulations apply. "Abandoned" and "inactive" trackages are two separate legal entities. "Exempt" crossings are, I believe, generally determined by the state highway people.
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