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Mid-America Transportation Center

Development of a Methodology for Assessment of Crash Costs at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings in Nebraska

Final Report
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University of Nebraska-Lincoln


  • Principal Investigator: Aemal Khattak ( (402) 472-8126)
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Eric Thompson ( (402)472-3318)
  • Graduate Students
  • Van Tran
  • Barbara Barnard
  • jeffrey svatore
  • Project Status
  • Start Date: 8/18/2010
  • End Date: 12/31/2011
  • About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    This research aims to develop a methodology for assessing accurate crash costs incurred at railroad grade crossings. Reviewed literature indicates that earlier studies did not take into account the full economic costs of crashes at railroad crossings. Given that costs are site- and crash-specific, a methodology is needed that can be used by agencies to fairly assess crash costs at railroad grade crossings. The research is based on seven tasks that include, among others, identifying economic factors associated with trucks, railroads, and the driving public. The research team comprised of a civil engineer and an economist is well-qualified for such research.
    Research Objective
    The objective of this research is to develop a methodology for assessing the full costs associated with crashes at highway-railroad grade crossings, including full costs to the transportation and logistics systems.
    Potential Benefits
    The research will result in methodologies to provide more accurate benefit cost analyses of safety improvements at highway-railroad grade crossings.
    An accurate measure of crash costs is required to support effective decision-making about transportation investments. In particular, underinvestment will occur if measurement fails to capture the full cost of crashes. Such mis-measurement and underinvestment may be occurring in the case of crashes at highway-rail grade crossings (HRGCs). HRGC crash costs can be substantial both because of the severity of crashes and the potential to cause significant disruption to the transportation and logistics system. Existing methodologies capture the first set of costs but often fail to fully capture the second set. As a result, this research will develop a methodology to assess the full costs associated with crashes at HRGCs, including the full costs to the transportation and logistics system. The research will focus on the state of Nebraska, a state with a large and active rail industry and many HRGC locations. Nebraska also is a headquarters or major location for several national railroads and trucking firms, and the research team plans to gather information from private industry firms and associations on the impact of HRGC crashes on business costs. Specifically, the research team will fuse pertinent Nebraska data on HRGCs with hazmat route information and detour routes for highway and rail traffic, using input from stakeholders (e.g., Nebraska Department of Roads, Nebraska-based truck companies, Nebraska Trucking Association, railroad companies, Operation Lifesaver, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency), The research team also will interview firms about additional capacity and costs maintained in order to mitigate the consequences of crash delays. In doing so, the research team will develop a methodology for gathering and valuing relevant data for estimating system-wide logistic costs due to HRGC crashes. The method will be comprehensive but also develop specific cost estimates based on the particular characteristics in and around HRGC sites.
    Total Project Cost
    $ 56,809