The MoDOT Multimodal Division administers the state’s railroad program to ensure Missouri’s rail system is safe for the motoring public, rail passengers and railroad employees. Within the office there are regulatory and program functions, including freight rail regulations; Amtrak passenger rail operations and promotion; light rail safety regulation; highway-rail crossing safety; rail/highway construction projects; highway-railroad crossing safety outreach; and safety inspections of railroad tracks, grade crossing signals and operating practices.
How many Public Highway rail crossings are in the State of Missouri?
As of July 1, 2009 there were 3721.
How long can a train block a railroad crossing?
Model Traffic Ordinance Section 300.360 states that is unlawful for a train to prevent the use of any street for purposes of travel for a period of time longer than five minutes; except this does not apply to a moving train or to one stopped because of an emergency or for repairs necessary before it can proceed safely.
If a train is blocking a crossing what should I do?
Be patient. Railroads and railroaders do not intentionally block crossings; generally there is a very good reason why a crossing is blocked for a period of five minutes or more. Common reasons include: waiting on the arrival of another train to pass, or waiting to enter into a rail yard. Occasionally, there are minor mechanical problems with locomotives or cars. Railroad employees by Federal Law cannot work more than 12 hours per day, so there are instances when a crew has met those limits and are awaiting another crew to relieve them.
What information should I collect, if the train blocks the crossing for an extended period of time?
First write down the time, date and how long a crossing was blocked. Note what City, Street or Route that you were traveling on. If possible write down the numbers on the side of some of the cars. Even better is to record the number on the locomotives, such as HLCX 1234. Most helpful is the DOT Number of the crossing that is blocked. Read below to determine what a DOT number is and where you can find one at the crossing.
How do you identify a railroad crossing or locate a DOT #?
Each public railroad crossing should have an identification tag with the name of the railroad company and a unique identification AAR-DOT number somewhere in close proximity to the crossing. On a crossing with flashing lights and / or gates, the DOT number will be painted on the side of a small silver building (bungalow) located near the crossing. The number can also be found on the signal mast (that’s the metal pole the flashing lights are attached to). The DOT number on the mast or the cross-buck pole can be found on a 4” x 9” embossed metal tag attached to the mast or pole (the pole that contains the standard “railroad crossing” white and black-lettered sign in the form of a large “X”). The number is a 6 digit number followed by a letter, such as, “987456 A”.
What should I do if I think that a railroad-crossing signal is malfunctioning?
Occasionally crossing signals will appear to be malfunctioning, and in extremely rare cases may actually malfunction. It is important to report all suspected malfunctions directly to the railroad so they can be corrected as soon as possible since the railroad is responsible for maintaining the warning system and each railroad has its own procedures for correcting such malfunctions. The design of active warning devices is such that if they do fail, they do so in the safest position – lights flashing and gates down. There are a number of reasons why signals might malfunction, but weather conditions are the most common reason. To quickly report malfunctioning grade crossing signals, call the railroad’s phone number on the side of the small silver building (bungalow, nearest the crossing) or placard on the signpost, to report the problem, and be prepared to give the “DOT number”, (see the question above to locate the DOT number). If you are unsuccessful or cannot get in touch with the railroad, contact local law enforcement, and in addition to all of the above, if still unsuccessful you may also contact our office for assistance during regular business hours at 573-526-2169.
Can a city require a railroad to operate at a specific speed or not sound the horn of a locomotive?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) governs many of the operational aspects of railroads. Federal regulation preempts any local speed restrictions and most operating practice procedures on trains. (Section 20106 of Title 49, United States Code.)
Federal law requires the sounding of the locomotive’s horn at least 20 seconds before the train approaches a rail/ highway crossing of any public road. Trains or engines must sound the horn as they proceed through the entire crossing.
The FRA has an administrative rule, which allows certain communities to apply for “quiet zones” if the rule’s requirements are met. Once the rule’s requirements are met, the locomotive would not sound its horn when passing through the crossing in most instances. See 49 Code of Federal Regulations part 222 for those requirements. Cities may also wish to investigate the use of "wayside horns", which are horns mounted at the signal post of a public rail/highway crossing so that the locomotive does not have to blow its horn. Wayside horns are generally believed to be less disruptive than locomotive horns because they are directed at the traffic in the street.
How can we get flashing lights and/or gates at a crossing that has only crossbucks?
The Railroad Unit coordinates and administers the Missouri Highway/Rail Crossing Safety Program. Highway/rail crossing safety projects are funded using Federal “Section 130” funds ($4 million/year) and Grade Crossing Safety Account (GCSA) state funds ($1.2 million/year). Section 389.612, RSMO was enacted to allow collection of a 25-cent fee for each motor vehicle registration or renewal. The Federal “Section 130” funds and the GCSA funds can be spent on public crossings only.
Each public crossing for which lights and/or gates are requested will be evaluated and its approximate ranking toward other crossings will be evaluated. Because funds are limited, at the present time only the crossings with extreme amounts of train and vehicle traffic or other sight distance problems will receive lights/gates because the need is great.
What is the difference between public and private crossings?
A public crossing is the location where railroad tracks intersect a roadway, which is part of the general system of public streets and highways, and is under the jurisdiction of and maintained by a public authority and open to the general traveling public.
A private crossing is one that is on a private roadway, which may connect to part of the general system of public streets and highways but is not maintained by a public authority. Usually, it is a crossing where the property on at least one side of the railroad tracks is private property. Private crossings are usually intended for the exclusive use of the adjoining property owner and the property owner’s family, employees, residential, farm, recreation/ cultural, industrial or commercial activities.
The trains in my neighborhood are constantly blowing their horns. Why do they have to do this when there are automatic signals at the crossing?
Locomotive engineers are required by state law to blow their horn as the train approaches a public road or street. The horn will be sounded from a point about ¼ mile from the crossing until the train enters the crossing. The horn is part of the overall safety system used at all crossings to alert highway users of the approach of the train. Keep in mind that environmental conditions such as fog, wind, snow and rain, as well as a curved track or noisy vehicle traffic near the crossing, can make it more difficult to hear the horn. Noise inside vehicles such as radios or passengers will also affect one’s ability to hear a horn, so these factors should be minimized when approaching a crossing. See also the answer above referring to quiet zones.
There are some tracks close to my home that I walk on all the time to get to the store. Is it against the law?
Yes, it is against the law to walk on railroad tracks, and you could be arrested for trespassing. Railroad tracks and right-of-way are private property with access strictly limited to railroad personnel and persons who have been granted permission from the railroad. Anyone else on the track or grounds of the railroad is trespassing. Even though you might think that you are safe, more than 1000 people are either killed or injured each year in the United States while trespassing on railroad tracks, yards and other railroad property. For the first time, in calendar year 2004, the number of people killed while trespassing on railroad property exceeded those killed at rail/highway crossings.
How do we get a rough rail crossing fixed?
Contact the railroad that is responsible for that crossing,( you should be able to tell the name of the railroad by checking the name on the signal bungalow or cross buck post.) You can also call in a compliant to our Railroad Unit in the Multimodal Section at (573) 526-2169. Keep in mind, that we have many crossings in the state; therefore the crossing inspection will have to be scheduled. Remember to obtain the same information which was listed above for identifying a railroad crossing.
How fast do the trains go on a particular line or track?
Passenger and freight trains are required to comply with the safety standards established by the Federal Railroad Administration. For speed guidelines based on track classification. Go to: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Elib/Document/16973, page 2.1.17 for speed information.
How can I access railroad crossing accident information?
The Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety maintains crossing accident and inventory information on their website.
What if I have additional questions?
Contact our office at (573) 526-2169 or at MoRail@modot.mo.gov.