The National Academies

NCHRP 17-123 [Pending]

Guide for Evaluating the Safety Performance of Shared Railway–Highway Interfaces

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Anne-Marie Turner


Safety issues exist at highway and rail crossings. However, safety concerns are not limited to crossing areas; they also exist in cases where one or more rail lines share at-grade roadway space with other roadway users, operating parallel along one side of the road, within the median, or within the roadway. These shared railway–highway interfaces include light rail (including streetcars) and heavy rail transporting passengers (intercity, commuter, and tourist lines) and freight within and adjacent to urban, suburban, and rural roads. These parallel and shared orientations create unique safety concerns that are not well-documented and do not have safety performance functions or crash modification factors to inform decision-making during project development. 

Research is needed to provide practitioners tools to evaluate the safety performance of shared railway-highway interfaces where the railroad track is within or immediately adjacent to the public roadway, including sidewalks, trails, medians, and shoulders. This research needs to consider all road users, including trains, other motorized vehicles, and nonmotorized users, (e.g., pedestrians or bicyclists.) 


The research objective is to develop a guide with a methodology, framework, and tools for evaluating the safety performance of shared railway-highway interfaces. 

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


PHASE I – Preliminary Research

Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research for safety performance and effectiveness of safety treatments and technologies within shared railway-highway interfaces, including human factors research. The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; FHWA; and other national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored sources.

Task 2. Conduct a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature review results and identify knowledge gaps and opportunities. These gaps must be addressed in the final deliverables as budget permits or the recommended future research. Document findings from Tasks 1 and 2 in a technical memorandum.
Task 3. Develop a survey for state DOTs, other agencies, and authorities. The draft survey and distribution list must be reviewed by the panel and approved by NCHRP before distribution. The survey shall, at a minimum,

  • Address federal, state, and local guidelines and practices;
  • Identify any perceived gaps in existing guidelines; and
  • Identify types and locations of shared facilities with examples. 

Task 4. Develop a methodology to achieve the project objective to be executed in Phase II. At a minimum, the methodology shall address

  • Railway–highway interfaces for freight and passenger services;
  • Common geometric and operational features of railway-highway interfaces;
  • Safety of vulnerable road users;
  • Regional and land use considerations, including urban and rural area types;
  • Cases that include two or more rail line types or other multimodal facility types at a railway-highway interfaces (i.e., freight and passenger rail);
  • Commonly used safety countermeasures and strategies;
  • Human-factors considerations and countermeasures;
  • Identification of best practices;
  • Data sources and proposed data collection processes;
  • Prioritization of railway-highway interface types for study, including hazard ranking;
  • Proposed methodologies for developing safety prediction models and crash modification factors (and/or other frameworks and tools) that address both crash frequency and severity; and
  • Other conditions that warrant consideration based on the literature review and survey.

Task 5. Prepare an annotated outline of the draft guide.

Task 6. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 5 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research.


PHASE II – Execute Research

Task 7. Collect data and refine approaches for developing safety prediction models, crash modification factors, and/or other frameworks and tools. Summarize refinements and data collection processes in a technical memorandum.

Task 8. Execute methods according to the approved Interim Report No. 1 and as refined in Task 6. Provide a summary of results in a technical memorandum.

Task 9. Prepare Interim Report No. 2, which documents Tasks 6 through 8 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. Include a sample chapter of the guide.


PHASE III – Final Deliverables

Task 10. Prepare the draft guide with framework and tools based on the approved Interim Report No. 2 for the NCHRP panel review. Prepare draft relevant content for consideration by AASHTO for inclusion in its next update of the Highway Safety Manual. The draft guide and the content for AASHTO consideration are due at least 6 months before the contract end date.

Task 11. Prepare final deliverables that present the entire research product. The final deliverables must include

  • A guide with a framework and tools;
  • Draft relevant content for consideration by AASHTO for inclusion in its next update of the Highway Safety Manual;
  • A conduct of research report, including an executive summary, that documents all research and project efforts;
  • A PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes that summarizes the project and distinctly illustrates for the audience how the research can be applied in their organization; and
  • A technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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