The National Academies

NCHRP 03-76B [Final]

Low-Cost Active Warning Systems for Highway-Rail Grade Crossings

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: Texas A&M Research Foundation
Principal Investigator: Dr. Steve Roop
Effective Date: 3/1/2004
Completion Date: 12/31/2006


Much research has been devoted to improving safety at highway-rail grade crossings, and considerable knowledge exists about driver behavior and crash causation. NCHRP Report 470, Traffic-Control Devices for Passive Railroad-Highway Grade Crossings, recommends improvements to the traffic control devices at passive crossings (i.e., those without signals or gates). Active warning systems that warn drivers of the approach of a train are beneficial but their cost limits the number that can be installed. Some low-cost active warning systems have been developed but further information on their functionality and performance is needed to facilitate their implementation.


The objective of this project was to identify and assess low-cost, viable active-warning-system and component designs for highway-rail grade crossings.


The contractor's final report is available.  The field evaluation did not identify any viable alternative designs so the report was not published but is being made available for the use of other researchers.


Task 1. Describe traditional active warning systems and estimate costs for each major functional component (e.g., train detection, traffic control devices). Identify components that present opportunities for cost savings.

Task 2. Develop assessment criteria for active-warning-system and component designs including, but not limited to, fulfillment of driver needs, reliability, fail-safe design, maintainability, training requirements, useful life, and available technical support.

Task 3. Identify innovative active-warning-system and component designs in use throughout the world. Collect available information on the functionality and performance of the designs and ongoing evaluation efforts.

Task 4. Identify attractive, alternative technologies used in other industries applicable for use in low-cost active warning systems.

Task 5. Assess technologies identified in Tasks 3 and 4 according to the Task 2 criteria and identify their advantages and limitations.

Task 6. Recommend designs worthy of further testing and develop robust evaluation plans for them. The evaluation plans should discuss the types of locations to be used in the testing.

Task 7. Meet with the NCHRP to discuss the work done and the recommended evaluation plans.

Task 8. Submit a report documenting the results of Tasks 1 through 7.

Task 9. Perform field tests of selected system designs in accordance with the evaluation plans developed in Task 6.

Task 10. Conduct a risk analysis and impact assessment of the selected system designs.

Task 11. Analyze the policy and institutional impacts of the selected system designs.

Task 12. Submit a report on the assessment of the selected system designs.

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