Even with increased efforts during the past decade, 40% of North Carolina's at-grade railroad-highway crossings remain unprotected by mechanical warning devices. The NCDOT, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, is working to "signalize" those unprotected crossings. The average cost of each project is between $170,000 to $200,000.
Some facts about NC's crossings . . .
There are 4025 at-grade public crossings statewide.
- 1,988 are equipped with flashing light signals and gates
- 417 are equipped with flashing light signals/bells
- 7 are equipped with traffic signals
There are 322 inactive public grade crossings. (Tracks in place, not currently in use by railroad.)
822 public crossings are grade separated.
There are 3,003 private at-grade crossings.
Deciding which crossings merit flashing signals and automatic gates
The NCDOT has developed an evaluation system, approved by the Federal Highway Administration, to determine which crossings have the most critical need for safety improvements. The following information is considered for each crossing in the state:
- train volume
- train speed
- average daily vehicle traffic
- school-bus frequency and passenger load
- existing warning devices
- the number of main-line tracks and side tracks in use
- the crossing's 10-year accident history.
From this, a numerical index is derived, called the "Investigative Index." The higher the index value, the higher the priority for improvement.
Information on each crossing is updated annually. The 300 or so crossings with the highest indexes are selected as candidates for improvement. Diagnostic teams consisting of engineers examine each crossing under consideration. Based on their recommendations - and available funding - as many crossings as possible are selected and assigned priorities for improvements. Annual funding has averaged $10 million in recent years, with some increase in funding levels provided through the federal Transportation Equity Act. After the selected crossings have been added to the Crossing Hazard Elimination Program, new projects are submitted to the N.C. Board of Transportation for approval as additions to the Transportation Improvement Program.
Where municipal streets rather than state-maintained roads are affected, cities and towns are required to pay 10% of the cost of installing grade-crossing warning devices. (Municipalities and the railroad companies split the cost of maintaining those devices.) Whenever a city or town signs an agreement with the state to participate in a project, the NCDOT will proceed in the same manner as other state road projects. If the municipality decides not to participate, the project will be dropped from the state's transportation improvement program but will remain under observation and consideration by NCDOT for future programming.