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Mid-America Transportation Center

Application of Light Detection and Ranging Technology to Assess Safe Passage of Low Ground Clearance Vehicles at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings

Final Report
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University of Nebraska-Lincoln


  • Principal Investigator: Aemal Khattak ( 402-472-8126)
  • Project Status
  • Start Date:
  • End Date:
  • Sponsors & Partners
  • Nebraska Department of Roads
  • About this Project
    The focus of this research was to test and validate the feasibility of assessing humped highway-rail grade crossings for safe passage of vehicles with low ground clearance using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data. Collected using an airborne platform, LiDAR data provide geo-referenced spatial information about the shape and surface characteristics of Earth. The suitability of humped highway-rail grade crossings for use by vehicles with low ground clearance is a concern because of the possibility of vehicles getting lodged on rail tracks. The situation is more critical for vehicles with low ground clearance and a long wheelbase. While such vehicles usually travel on designated routes, emergencies or highway closures may result in these vehicles travelling on highways with humped grade crossings that may be unsafe for their passage.

    Using LiDAR data and line-of-sight analysis in a geographic information system (GIS), potentially problematic grade crossings for certain types of low ground clearance vehicles with a long wheelbase were identified. Results of the GIS analysis were validated in the field at actual grade crossings using survey equipment. The main conclusion was that LiDAR data could be successfully used to identify vehicle hangup issues at rail grade crossings.