Date of this Version
Report # SPR-P1(09) P323 Final Report 26-1121-0004-001
The focus of the research reported herein was on assessing the long-term effectiveness of median barriers at highway-rail grade crossings (HRGCs), the impacts of barrier maintenance in resurrecting safety, and on exploring and assessing ways to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety at HRGCs. Nebraska has about 7,000 HRGCs and each one represents a potential conflict point among trains and highway users, i.e., motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Safety at HRGCs is compromised when highway users resort to unsafe maneuvers, such as passing around closed gates when trains are approaching. Gate-related violations by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists were studied at three selected HRGCs in Waverly, Fremont, and Lincoln, all cities located in Nebraska. The barrier at the Waverly HRGC was removed after being in place for a long time while the dilapidated barrier at the Fremont HRGC was revived through maintenance. An educational activity focused on pedestrians and bicyclists at the Fremont HRGC was evaluated for reducing gate violations. Removal of the barrier in Waverly contributed to greater frequency of unsafe maneuvers by motorists. Specifically, the frequencies of aggregate unsafe maneuvers (i.e., the sum of motorist gate rush, U-turn and backup), as well as gate rush and U-turn, increased after barrier removal. Safety deteriorated over the long-term at the Fremont HRGC while maintenance resurrected safety by reducing the frequency of passing around fully lowered gates by 30-50%. Regarding the effects of the educational campaign focused on pedestrians and bicyclists at the Fremont HRGC, the drive successfully reduced passing around fully lowered gates by about 39%. The recommendations from this research include emphasis on maintenance of barriers in top condition after installation and educational campaigns focused on pedestrians and bicyclists for safety improvements at HRGCs.