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

U.S. Government Accountability Office

November 8, 2018

Crashes at highway-rail grade crossings are one of the leading causes of railroad-related deaths. According to 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 FHWA’s Section 130 Program. The persistence of crashes and deaths raises questions about the effectiveness of the federal grade-crossing-safety program.

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 nongeneralizable sample of eight states, selected to include a mix in the number of grade crossings and crashes, and geographic diversity.

Read the full report here: