Recording Devices for Interconnected Grade Crossing and Intersection Signal Systems: An Informational Report
Chapter 1. Introduction
In 1996, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a final investigative report on the school bus-commuter train collision that occurred at a highway-rail grade crossing in Fox River Grove, Illinois (1). In the report, 29 recommendations were made to improve safety at active controlled highway-rail grade crossings that are interconnected with adjacent signalized intersections. Two recommendations were classified as "Open - Unacceptable Response" by NTSB for a number of years:
- NTSB Recommendation I-96-010. NTSB recommends that DOT require the use and maintenance of railroad and highway/traffic signal recording devices on all new and improved installations at railroad/highway grade crossings that have active warning train detection systems and are interconnected/preempted to highway signal systems. These devices record sufficient parameters to allow railroad and highway personnel to readily determine that the highway signals and railroad-activated warning devices are coordinated and operating properly. NTSB recommends that DOT require that the information from these devices be used during comprehensive and periodic joint inspections.
- NTSB Recommendation I-96-011. NTSB recommends that DOT requires that existing recording devices for railroad and highway signals systems at interconnected/preempted grade crossings be retained or upgraded as necessary; requires that these recording devices be maintained and that the information from these devices be used during the comprehensive and periodic joint inspections.
In September 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued Safety Advisory 2010-02 to address these two recommendations (2). The advisory recommended that four actions be taken by highway agencies and railroads:
- Each State and local highway authority and railroad should conduct comprehensive joint inspections of highway traffic signal pre-emption interconnections when the highway-rail grade crossing active warning system is placed in service, whenever any portion of the system which may affect the proper function of the interconnection is modified or disarranged, and at least once every 12 months, during which observation of the actual pre-emption function and its effect on the highway traffic signal system can be made;
- Each State and local highway authority and railroad should install railroad and highway traffic signal recording devices at all new and improved highway-rail grade crossings that have active warning systems which are interconnected with highway traffic signal systems;
- Each State and local highway authority and railroad should maintain and upgrade existing railroad and highway traffic signal recording devices at highway-rail grade crossings that have active warning systems which are interconnected with highway traffic signal systems; and
- Each State and local highway authority and railroad should use the data provided by railroad and highway traffic signal recording devices during their comprehensive periodic joint inspections of interconnected highway-rail grade crossing active warning systems and highway traffic signal systems to determine whether further investigation of any recorded operational anomalies may be warranted.
Following the issuance of the Safety Advisory, NTSB changed their classification of the two recommendations to "Closed – Acceptable Alternate Action".
The objective of this task order was to develop technical information that would assist highway agencies and railroads with integrating effective event recording devices within interconnected/preempted highway-rail grade crossing signal systems. This technical information is intended to be applicable to the installation of new systems as well as to retrofitting existing systems. The objective also included developing technical information that could be used by State and local highway agencies as they perform periodic inspection of traffic signals as well as detailed joint annual inspections of interconnected highway-rail grade crossing signal systems. The outcomes of this effort are focused to help the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the FRA implement the two NTSB recommendations, supporting Safety Advisory 2010-02.
The tasks completed to achieve the objective were as follows:
- Collect, Review, and Evaluate Available Technologies and Current State-of-Practice.
- Develop a Technical and Policy Information Document.
- Develop a Model Strategy for States to Establish Regular Joint Inspections of Interconnected Systems.
This report documents the findings and outcomes of these individual tasks.