Law or not? New grade crossings.

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Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby hando401 » Tue May 19, 2015 10:23 am

Hello, all. I'm looking for some help in determining the rules/regs regarding new grade crossings. I'm a Civil EI working in the early stages of a project that includes the planning of a rail element and since I helped design a couple of spurs and sidings at my previous company, I've been deemed my new company's rail "expert." Grade crossing came up in a project meeting last week and several team members (all with zero rail experience) swear that there's some sort of federal(?) law that essentially requires the closure of 2-3 existing grade crossings if a new one is to be built. I've heard something along those lines before but I was always under the impression that it was more of a RR policy toward public road crossing existing tracks as opposed to any sort of federal/state/other law. I searched Google and this forum before I joined to post this and didn't find what I was looking for. Can anyone verify or point me in the right direction?

Also, I think the people who brought it up are severely confused because this particular application includes private side track and roadways...and closing 2 crossings to build 1 new one on private infrastructure just doesn't make any sense to me.

Thanks
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby BR&P » Sat May 30, 2015 5:09 pm

In the interest of safety, closing existing crossings is a good thing. But it's not always practical and I have never heard of a law or regulation mandating it. Additionally, private crossings within a private complex would escape many of the facets of public highway crossings. If you have not resolved this by now I can try to come up with some contacts at engineering firms who have gone through this, and could give you more specific guidance than I can on this.
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby edbear » Sun May 31, 2015 8:08 pm

First thing, contact the railroad. You'll have to tell them what you want. They'll tell you their policy, which is probably no new crossings. If you are planning a crossing for a municipality, state, or industrial customer which will bring traffic to the railroad, the railroad will listen. When I was at the Boston & Maine, some crossings had to be built, several to town disposal sites or treatment plants and an industrial park in Manchester, NH. The railroad first requested a fee to design the crossing. Assuming the applicant wanted to move forward after design, a contract was written specifying material costs and installation costs, monthly testing and operating costs billed annually in advance, paving responsibility, liability for damage to the installation and exemption from liability to persons or property injured/damaged at the crossing. Crossings have a Federal number, but I don't think the Feds actually decide which crossings are built and which are not.
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby hando401 » Mon Jun 01, 2015 8:06 am

Thanks for the posts, yall. Don't pull any strings yet, BR&P. I've got to coordinate more with the RR, as edbear suggested. I was just pulled into this project very quickly and didn't have much background info (one afternoon: "Hey i need you to do this. Oh and by the way we have to present it tomorrow morning..."). I'm working on conceptual alignments and profiles now and identifying issues that I'm sure will end up in another presentation for the project managers. I'll make sure to add the crossing question to the list if I can't get the info I need from the RR beforehand. I figured this forum would be a good place to start. If there was such a law/regulation, I think someone here would be able to easily identify it or direct me to it.

Thanks again.
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby BR&P » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:48 am

OK Hando, I'll stand by in case you need something. Here are a few random thoughts you may or may not have already considered.

If the crossing will be on railroad-owned track, their engineering folks can give you input on what they will want as far as materials (weight of rail, grade of ties, type of rail fasteners, flangeway filler such as Epflex, etc.) If it's a public road, the municipality will have input on road surface, drainage and so on. Since you're working in engineering in general, I'll assume you are already familiar with the MUTCD which will detail advance signs, pavement markings and related items.

If this is on private property, with the track NOT owned by the railroad, you may have a bit more leeway in design, although since the tracks will be connected to the "general railway system" of the nation, some federal items may apply anyway. There are too many variables to be able to give a blanket statement.

Not directly related to the crossings themself, but re the turnout and portion of the siding on the railroad's property. Naturally the railroad will want the industry to be served to foot the bill. That's very reasonable because otherwise anybody and everybody would be asking for a siding and not using it for one reason or another. But the industry can investigate whether the railroad would entertain some sort of volume-based rebate once traffic does move. Some will, some won't. For a car a week I would not expect much. But if the new customer expects to be taking significant carloads, it may be possible to get some sort of concession which will offset some of the costs if the volume actually does move.

Probably all this is stuff you already know but thought I'd toss it out here for thought anyway.
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby Watchman318 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:28 pm

BR&P wrote:If this is on private property, with the track NOT owned by the railroad, you may have a bit more leeway in design, although since the tracks will be connected to the "general railway system" of the nation, some federal items may apply anyway. There are too many variables to be able to give a blanket statement.
Agreed. The FRA might encourage "closed corridors," but I've never heard of any federal law requiring one crossing to be closed before a new one can be constructed. However, some states might require any new crossings of public ways to be above or below grade. (Example: Title 23, Maine Revised Statutes, Sec. 7205)
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby BR&P » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:53 pm

The policies certainly vary from one state to another. And some times some "horse trading" can come into play as well. Some years back there was a location where a rail-over-highway bridge was in need of repair so SOMETHING had to be done. There was considerable local pressure to replace it with a grade crossing (this was on a lightly-used shortline). Hearings were held before an ALJ, and since safety was to be a concern, not only was the new crossing to have lights and gates, but another road about a half mile away also got lights and gates in place of the crossbucks it had. Thus the argument was made that overall safety was improved. The project was accepted and was installed.

That crossing, by the way, is - or at the time of construction WAS - the only exempt crossing in the state at which the train was not required to stop then proceed. Due to some complex safety issues the railroad argued it would be safer to have regular 3-circuit logic and for the trains to keep moving. This was granted, with the provision the speed was 10 mph and the train would be prepared to stop short of the crossing if the gates did not function as intended.
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Re: Law or not? New grade crossings.

Postby scharnhorst » Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:54 am

Watchman318 wrote:
BR&P wrote:If this is on private property, with the track NOT owned by the railroad, you may have a bit more leeway in design, although since the tracks will be connected to the "general railway system" of the nation, some federal items may apply anyway. There are too many variables to be able to give a blanket statement.
Agreed. The FRA might encourage "closed corridors," but I've never heard of any federal law requiring one crossing to be closed before a new one can be constructed. However, some states might require any new crossings of public ways to be above or below grade. (Example: Title 23, Maine Revised Statutes, Sec. 7205)


Finger Lakes Railway shut down 2 crossings at ITT by there R & D Building in Seneca Falls, NY most of them joined between plant parking lots for the employees to cross on foot and fork trucks the crossings were put in during the Conrail era FGLK had them shut down and removed as the crossings were not listed in the time table's.
no matter the weather or the country I'll still be trackside!
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