While safety continues to be a high priority in the development of road-rail grade separation projects, state and local decision makers need additional, robust criteria when prioritizing these projects for funding and construction. This situation is particularly acute along a rail corridor that is experiencing a significant increase in the number of train movements, or where the operating speed or train length has increased. For instance, the increasing use of rail to transport energy products such as crude oil, or the addition of passenger rail operations, has caused train movements to increase dramatically in several regions of the United States. A more comprehensive set of criteria that balance economic and social benefits and costs could facilitate a more thorough analysis for prioritizing grade crossing separation projects along rail corridors experiencing increasing train movements or changing operating conditions. In times of fiscal constraint, there is a need for a more precise, objective way to evaluate the merits of proposed grade separation projects.
The objectives of this research are to develop: (1) a prioritization procedure for transportation practitioners to rank road-rail grade separations within specific rail corridors; and (2) a communication toolkit to inform and convey to stakeholders and decision makers the relative objective merits of individual road-rail separation projects within corridors.
The prioritization procedure criteria, data sources, and variables for ranking road-rail grade separations, shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Costs of grade crossing crashes,
- Impacts of grade crossing delay to truckers, commuters, shippers, railroads, and emergency services
- Sensitivity to expected land use
- Economic forecasts
- Supply chain and logistics variables
- Consistency with adopted plans and policies
- Capital costs
- Construction impacts on stakeholders
- Alternative or interim solutions to grade crossing separation
- Environmental impacts
- Stakeholder support
It is expected that the prioritization procedure shall be applied to case studies that demonstrate, evaluate, and refine the procedure and criteria for use across urban and rural areas along rail corridors.
A kick-off teleconference of the research team and NCHRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution.
The work plan proposed must be divided into tasks, with each task described in detail. The tasks must be divided into two Phases. Phase I will consist of information gathering and planning tasks, with a task devoted to researching and evaluating current practices to prioritize grade separation projects in the United States. Phase I will culminate in the submittal of an interim report. The interim report will describe the work completed in the Phase I tasks and provide an updated work plan for the Phase II tasks, 5 proposed case studies of existing rail corridors, and an outline of the prioritization procedure. The updated Phase II work plan should address the manner in which the proposer intends to use the information obtained in Phase I to satisfy the project objectives. A face-to-face interim meeting with NCHRP will be scheduled to discuss the interim report and select 2 case studies. Work on Phase II tasks shall not begin until NCHRP approves the updated work plan. The project work schedule shall include 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the interim report. The final deliverables shall include the prioritization procedure for transportation practitioners to rank road-rail grade separations within specific rail corridors, a communication toolkit to inform and convey to stakeholders and decision makers the relative objective merits of individual grade separation projects within corridors, plus a final report that documents the entire research effort and other deliverables as described in the research plan. Proposers may recommend additional deliverables to support the project objectives.