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Safety Analysis of Highway-Railway Grade Crossings

Models and Tools for Evaluating the Safety of Highway-Railway Grade Crossings in Canada

1. A Decision Support Model for Prioritizing Safety Improvement Programs at High-Risk Grade Crossings (completed)

Highway-rail grade crossing collisions are a source of concern for regulators, railway authorities and the public-at-large. Each year in Canada, about 50 people lose their lives as a direct result of grade-crossing collisions (Transport Canada, Railway Safety Facts, 1996). There are over 20,000 highway-rail grade crossings in Canada, covering a wide spectrum of physical characteristics, control devices and usage. To improve safety at all 20,000 grade crossings to a uniform standard would be prohibitively expensive and impractical. Accordingly, any comprehensive safety program must begin by first identifying those crossings where the risk of crashes is unacceptably high, and where safety countermeasures are most warranted. The objective of this research was to develop a methodology and models that would enable this type of analysis.

As a result of this project, a web based application called GradeX (www.gradex.ca) has been developed which implements a risk-based approach to the process of screening highway- railway grade crossings for safety improvement. The system accounts both the expected frequency of collisions as well as their expected consequences (fatalities, personal injuries and property damages). GradeX has become a valuable decision support tool for Transport Canada safety engineers and safety inspectors and railway and highway authorities to screen high risk crossings and develop cost-effective safety improvement programs. It integrates a comprehensive risk-based analysis framework with a simple interface for easy access to a set of complex statistical models and a large repository of inventory and collision data for highway-railway grade crossings in Canada.

2. Benefit Assessment of Grade Crossing Regulatory Proposal

The main objective of this project component is to develop an improved procedure for quantifying the expected benefit of the Transport Canada’s grade crossing regulatory proposal. GradeX was developed mainly for the purpose of evaluating the risk of highway-railway grade crossings and identifying the high-risk crossings for safety improvement. While its current version has integrated some of the basic functions for cost benefit analysis (CBA), it misses many countermeasures and safety factors that must be considered in evaluating the new regulations.

3. Improvement and Development of Collision Risk and Treatment Effectiveness Models for GradeX

This research is to make some improvements to the GradeX model with the following specific objectives: investigate safety trend of Canadian crossings based on historical collision data and upgrading projects by incorporating trend terms and major external variables pertaining to changes in policy, safety improvement programs and other factors; recalibrate the risk models implemented in the current version of GradeX using latest inventory and collision data as well the state-of-the-art modeling techniques and hotspot identification methods, investigate and document various risk mitigation countermeasures currently available, or likely to become available in the foreseeable future, in terms of their implementation costs and expected effects; develop estimates on accident modification factors using a before-after observational analysis within the Bayesian framework for the typical crossing treatment methods used in Canada.

Models and Tools for Evaluating the Safety of Highway-Railway Grade Crossings in Canada

Funding sources
Transport Canada