Office of Rail Transportation

Frequently Asked Questions

Highway-Rail Crossing Safety

How can I report a highway-rail signal that is not working?

    A toll free number and the <a href=" /iowarail/highway-railroad-crossings/highway-railroad-crossing-identifiers">crossing identification is posted on a sign at the crossing. Use the toll-free number to contact the railroad and identify the crossing by number or location. Or, a list of the appropriate <a href=" /iowarail/iowa-freight-rail/railroad-contracts">emergency contacts for each railroad is available on this web site.

How can I report another type of rail-related emergency?

How can we get flashing lights or gates at a crossing that has only a crossbuck?

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. 

Does the DOT have any funding available for railroad signals?

Yes, there are Federal Aid Section 130 Rail/Highway Crossing Safety Funds available for active warning devices, i.e. signals. The fund pays 90% of the cost and the 10% match is provided by the railroad or the highway authority. However, the available funding allows a limited number of safety improvements each year.

How is the priority for funding determined for signal/safety projects?

The applications for funding are analyzed each year to determine the cost benefit ratio. This complex formula takes into consideration the extent of vehicle and train traffic at the crossing, the speed of trains, certain characteristics of the crossing, the effectiveness of the proposed improvement, the estimated cost of the improvement and other factors. Generally, those crossings with a high probability for a serious crash with a proposed improvement anticipated to be effective and cost efficient will receive the highest priority.

How often does the Iowa DOT determine what crossing safety projects will receive Federal Aid Rail-Highway Crossing Safety Funds?

Annually. The Iowa DOT's Five-Year Transportation Improvement Program includes projects programmed in the upcoming year. List of currently approved projects.

Who can request Federal Aid Rail/Highway Crossing Safety Funds?

The railroads and highway jurisdictions throughout the state of Iowa may request safety funds. An application must be submitted by July 1st of each year to be considered in the annual funding cycle.

Does the Iowa DOT have jurisdiction over every public crossing in the state?

No, the DOT only has jurisdiction over highway railroad crossings on the state roads system. The highway authority, (city or county) has jurisdiction over their respective crossings. 

Does the Iowa DOT have certain standards for warning signals at highway-rail crossings?