USA Banner

Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Site Notification

U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Analysis of Non-Track-Circuit Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Train Detection Technologies

Document Series
Technical Reports
Federal Railroad Administration
Report Number
Subject Grade Crossing Technology, Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
Highway-rail, grade crossing, accident prediction formula, acoustic train detection, fiber-Bragg grating, magnetometer, seismic train detection, track circuits, train detection, warning device effectiveness, warning device upgrade, wheel detectors, safety

This research investigated the suitability of non-track-circuit-based technologies as a cost-effective means to deploy active warning devices at passive grade crossings.  While several promising technologies were identified, some of the findings were unexpected.  Mainly, there existed a subset of passive grade crossings that may potentially experience a sharp decrease in risk if these crossings were to be equipped with active warning devices.  This finding was based on an analysis of the societal benefits accrued from equipping the crossings with active warning devices relative to the installation and life-cycle costs during the expected lifetime of the equipment.

The cost differential between track-circuit-based and non-track-circuit-based systems was minimal and could not be used alone to justify alternative train detection technologies.  However, alternative technologies were superior to track-circuit-based systems at locations prone to flooding/snow/ice, leaf buildup on rails, and accrual of rail rust.  This finding further suggested that there was a compelling argument for evaluating alternative grade crossing train detection technologies.

Last updated: Monday, December 2, 2019