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Traffic Control at highway railroad crossing

Part 8 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration contains guidance on the design and placement of traffic control at highway-railroad crossings.

Advance warning signs (circular signs) and pavement markings at a highway-railroad crossing are the responsibility of the highway authority (city, county or state).  Damaged or illegible signs or markings should be reported to the highway authority (the agency that maintains the roadway.)

Crossbucks, lights, lights and gates or other signage at the crossing are the responsibility of the railroad. Damaged or illegible signs or malfunctioning active warning devices (lights or lights and gates) should be reported to the railroad.

Emergency railroad contacts

Signal malfunctions should be reported to the railroad responsible for the signal.

A common question from residents is how to accomplish an upgrade from a passive warning device (crossbuck) to an active warning device (lights or lights and gates). Active warning devices at highway-rail grade crossings are for the benefit and safety of the motorist. The local highway authority (city or county) and railroad work together to plan an improvement. Either can initiate a discussion on a safety improvement and costs can be borne by either or both parties. The highway authority has the final authority on the type of warning device at a highway-rail crossing.

The Iowa DOT administers federal funding that may assist in improvements, but funding is insufficient to fund all requests, and those that have the greatest safety benefit in relationship to cost are given priority for funding.

Federal-Aid Highway/Rail Crossing Safety Program

The crossing safety program participates in the cost of safety improvements at highway-railroad grade crossings.


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