A total of 2,397 highway-rail grade crossing collisions were reported in 2008, resulting in 286 deaths and more than 900 injuries. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) statistics show that in 78 of these vehicle-train collisions, the cause was listed as "highway user inattentiveness", resulting in 14 deaths and 117 injuries. Other FRA statistics show that in 488 grade crossing crashes, vehicles ran into trains already present at the crossings. Of those crashes, more than 60 percent were at crossings equipped with either gates or flashing lights, while just over 33 percent occurred at crossings with either stop or crossbuck signs. Although these crashes may have multiple causes, distracted driving appears to be a contributing factor.
A highway-rail crossing located in Fremont, NE will be studied for distracted drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists by using observers in the field and a video recording system. Additional data will be gathered by surveying a sample of the grade crossing users. This location already has the needed electric power while a new camera and digital video recorder will be installed. Collected data will be analyzed for instances of distracted usage of the crossing by drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The results will provide information for the development of an informed strategy on reducing distracted usage of grade crossings.
The objective of this proposed research is to determine the level of protection provided to a flexible pipe by a geosynthetic layer. The proposed hypotheses are: the geosynthetic reinforcement over a buried pipe will reduce the stresses and strains in a flexible pipe, caused by a penetrating (simulating excavation during construction) or dynamic surface load (simulating traffic). This research objective will be pursued at the CEAE Department at the University of Kansas using the large-scale geotechnical test box (3 m long x 2 m wide x 2 m high). In this research, the following factors will be investigated: (1) type of backfill in trench (sand and gravel), (2) type of surface cover (sand and gravel); (3) mechanical properties of geosynthetic, (4) depth of geosynthetic, and (5) type of loading (penetrating and cyclic loading). Earth pressure cells, displacement transducers, and strain gauges will be installed around or on the pipe and the geosynthetic to investigate the effects of the above influence factors.
The successful completion of this research can advance the technology of using geosynthetic reinforcement to protect underground pipes, and potentially help engineers develop a system that can avoid catastrophes.