Grade-Crossing Safety: DOT Should Evaluate Whether Program Provides States Flexibility to Address Ongoing Challenges

Crashes at highway-rail grade crossings are one of the leading causes of railroad-related deaths. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data, in 2017, there were more than 2,100 crashes resulting in 273 fatalities. Since 2009 crashes have occurred at a fairly constant rate. The federal government provides states funding to improve grade-crossing safety through the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA’s) Section 130 Program. The persistence of crashes and deaths raises questions about the effectiveness of the federal grade-crossing-safety program. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review federal efforts to improve grade-crossing safety. This report examines: (1) the focus of FRA’s grade-crossing-safety research, (2) how states select and implement grade-crossing projects and what data are available from FRA to inform their decisions, and (3) the challenges states reported in implementing and assessing projects and the extent to which FHWA assesses the program’s effectiveness. GAO analyzed FRA data; reviewed FRA’s, FHWA’s, and states’ documents; reviewed a study of states’ selection of projects; and interviewed FRA and FHWA headquarters and field staff, and officials from a non-generalizable sample of eight states, selected to include a mix in the number of grade crossings and crashes, and geographic diversity. GAO recommends that FHWA evaluate the program’s requirements to determine if they allow states the flexibility to address ongoing safety issues. The Department of Transportation concurred with GAO’s recommendation.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 45p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01686216
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-19-80
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 21 2018 11:16AM