The National Academies

TCRP D-25 [Anticipated]

Preparation of a Manuscript for Publication of the Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, 3rd Edition

  Project Data
Funds: 500000
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Comments: In development
Fiscal Year: 2024

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

The goal of this project is to update the various chapters of TCRP Report 155: Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, 2nd Edition, to reflect the current state of the art in light rail track design.

Significant changes have occurred in railway track design since the second edition of the Handbook was published in 2012. Several new track components have made an appearance, especially in the field of direct fixation track. Advances in light rail vehicles, special trackwork (frogs), embedded track accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, prevention of stray current, requirements for track modulus of elasticity, rail/structure interaction on bridges, to name a few, are topics that need updating.

The influence of the Handbook cannot be overestimated. Entire new-start systems have been designed by inexperienced engineers almost entirely relying on the Handbook. Owners use the Handbook as a proof that the designers’ recommendations are valid. It is of vital importance that a reference of that powerful an influence undergo periodic updating.

Major expansions of light rail and other rail transit systems continue unabated in North America. Given the influence that the Handbook exerts in the industry, it is very important that it be updated. Anecdotally, we are hearing reports of owners and engineers relying on outdated information to make important decisions. For example, the trackwork on an entire new-start streetcar system was designed solely by a junior engineer and constructed using a continuous stretch of embedded track out-of-crosslevel, designed to match the crown of the road in which it was embedded. While the occasional use of out-of-crosslevel track cannot be avoided, endorsement of a continuous length of canted track throughout the system was not intended by the authors of TCRP Report 155 and is not considered to be prudent and reasonable practice. Another issue is leaving a junior engineer to interpret the Handbook without quality processes in place to have the design reviewed by a qualified senior trackwork engineer. Both issues—crosslevel and use of an experienced engineer—can be re-emphasized in an updated version of the Handbook. Another example involves vehicle loading parameters. It seems that the Handbook has outdated vehicle information that owners are relying despite the protests of contracted engineers.

A strong showing of support by the TRB will continue to keep the TCRP in the forefront of rail transit engineering.

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