The National Academies

TCRP A-27 [Final]

Shared Use of Railroad Infrastructure with Non-FRA-Compliant Public Transit Rail Vehicles

  Project Data
Funds: $198,564
Research Agency: Boz / Allen / Hamilton
Principal Investigator: Paul K. Stangas, P.E.
Effective Date: 8/31/2005
Completion Date: 3/30/2009



            TCRP Report 130: Shared Use of Railroad Infrastructure with Noncompliant Public Transit Rail Vehicles: A Practitioner’s Guide includes a business case for the shared use of non-FRA-compliant public transit rail vehicles (e.g., light rail) with freight operations and offers a suggested business model for such shared-use operations. The Guide also identifies the advantages and disadvantages of shared-use operations and the issues and barriers that can arise in the course of implementation.


The Guide includes a section that identifies and evaluates available and emerging technology, operating procedures, and techniques that could be used to minimize the risks associated with sharing of track between non-FRA-compliant public transit rail vehicles and freight railroad operations. Finally, the Guide includes descriptions and sources of real-world examples of these applications.


This Guide will be helpful to transit managers, transit operations planners, transportation consultants, state safety oversight agencies, and federal rail and transit oversight agencies.



There are two methods by which railroad corridors can be shared between public transit and freight rail operations. The first consists of public transit rail vehicles using existing railroad corridors, but not sharing the same track. The second method involves public transit rail vehicles sharing the same track with freight rail operations. The focus of this research is on the second method of shared-use, solely as it relates to sharing track with lighter public transit vehicles (e.g., light rail vehicles) that do not meet current Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) crashworthiness regulations. This "co-mingled" use of track has enormous potential for public transit expansion because freight rail corridors that crisscross the nation often provide the only transportation corridors left to connect suburban development to many urban communities. Each prospective shared-use corridor will give rise to a unique set of operating issues that requires development of new techniques, operating rules, and technology applications to allow the safe sharing of privately owned corridors that are becoming increasingly attractive as a latent community asset. In other instances, transit agencies have acquired rail corridors but are required to maintain pre-existing freight services, or public transit operators have been able to reach shared-use agreements (under “temporal separation” restrictions) with existing railroads. In either case, the FRA maintains jurisdiction and oversees use of the corridors based on regulations, laws, and policies developed during a century of safety oversight of the railroad industry.

To assist in the development of the Practitioner’s Guide, the research team identified and evaluated the suitability of existing train-control applications for promising shared-use opportunities.  Also, the research team evaluated the effectiveness of available and emerging technologies, operating procedures, and other techniques that could be used to address signals, grade crossing warning systems, and corridor intrusion detection appropriate for “co-mingled” shared-use train control. Based on this evaluation, the research team developed a baseline of common communications and control elements that would enhance the safety for applicable shared-use operations.

The Practitioner’s Guide is intended as a tool-kit and handbook for identification of candidate corridors and implementation of a cotemporaneous shared-track operation. The report develops analytical techniques, notably a business model and business case, and strategies to overcome the barriers of safety standards and regulatory restraints.


Status: The final report has been completed and is published as TCRP Report 130.

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