Section 3: Diagnostic Inspection
Diagnostic Preparation Work
Prior to the diagnostic inspection, the following activities are recommended:
- Crash reports are analyzed and brought to the diagnostic by the TRF-RSS Project Manager.
- Broken gate, vehicle on track, or near miss reports may also be analyzed and brought to the diagnostic by the TRF-RSS Project Manager or railroad company; these reports are produced by the railroad company.
- District Railroad Coordinator arranges to have any traffic signal preemption forms (TxDOT Form 2304) filled out, if needed.
- District Railroad Coordinator contacts the local government to discuss any current issues at the crossing or pending projects by the local government.
Diagnostic inspections are coordinated by the TRF-RSS Project Manager.
Diagnostic Inspection Team Composition
The Diagnostic Inspection Team typically includes:
- District Railroad Coordinator
- TRF-RSS Project Manager
- Railroad company Project Manager
- Railroad company Signal Maintainer (as needed)
- Local government representative (as needed)
- FHWA or FRA representative (as needed).
Diagnostic Inspection Activities
The diagnostic inspection is conducted on site at the crossing to discuss and take notes on:
- existing and future traffic counts
- future roadway projects
- train operations and future plans
- Quiet Zone considerations (existing or proposed)
- safety upgrades such as lights and gates, signing and striping, and traffic signal preemption
- upgrades to a corridor to be considered
- adjustments to civil features such as curb & gutter, culverts, guardrail, or retaining walls
- tree trimming or other measures to increase sight distance
- median installation
- required utility adjustments
- how to bring power to the crossing
- if closing the crossing is possible
- who will provide materials and labor for the proposed improvements
- which items will be eligible for federal and state reimbursement
- cost participation from both railroad company and local government
- how inspections will be performed during construction
- how invoices will be reviewed and approved.
A sketch of the proposed crossing with safety enhancements is prepared by both the railroad company Project Manager and TRF-RSS Project Manager along with any applicable notes.
Items shown on the sketch typically include:
- any existing gates, cantilevers, or mast flashers labeled as to be removed or relocated or to remain
- any proposed gates, cantilevers, or mast flashers
- any proposed or existing front, side, or back lights
- distances to any relocated or proposed gates, cantilevers, or mast flashers from edge of roadway
- distances to any relocated or proposed gates, cantilevers, or mast flashers from edge of nearest rail (to the tip of the gate) or center of tracks (to the center of signal mast)
- any proposed or existing railroad cabins (in proximity to railroad crossing)
- distances from edge of roadway and edge of nearest rail to near edge of cabin, both distances measured perpendicularly
- distance between adjacent gate and cantilever
- distance between near edge of sidewalk and center of gate, cantilever, or mast flasher
- proposed or existing medians
- proposed or existing curb
- drainage features, metal beam guard fence, or retaining wall needed for installing railroad active devices
- any utility poles that might impact the railroad signals
- all roadway lanes, lane widths, and shoulder widths
- number of tracks and distance between tracks (“track centers”), as well as any tracks to be removed
- estimated length of gates (optional)
- estimated length of cantilevers
- existing or proposed sidewalks or shared use pathways
- locations of bores, ground boxes, and traffic signal cabinet for preemption projects
- name of roadway crossing the tracks and any parallel roads
- distance to parallel roads
- north arrow
- If applicable, show lane assignments, through only, right turn only, etc.
A diagnostic inspection form is also completed on site. See Chapter 14 for an example.
The sketch and diagnostic inspection form are uploaded into the TRIMS Project Management Module by the TRF-RSS Project Manager.
After the Diagnostic Inspection
Typically, there are three separate paths FSP projects will follow after the diagnostic inspection:
- Pursue safety enhancements with railroad company force account work.
- No further action letter.
- Pursue crossing closure.
Project Engineering Authorization Letter
The diagnostic team may recommend safety upgrades with any railroad force account work including:
- adjusting railroad signal circuitry
- providing or changing active warning devices
- providing traffic signal preemption
- replanking the crossing surface.
In these scenarios, the TRF-RSS Project Manager will then issue a Project Engineering Authorization Letter to authorize the railroad company to begin developing cost estimates for work by the railroad company and develop any necessary wireline diagrams. Depending on the terms in the Master Agreement or Project Engineering Authorization Letter, this letter may or may not be signed by the railroad company.
Project Engineering Authorization Letters are uploaded into the TRIMS Project Management Module by the TRF-RSS Project Manager.
No Further Action Letters
In some cases, the diagnostic team may determine that railroad company force account work is not recommended. Some reasons may include:
- train counts or AADT are not accurate for the crossing
- difficulty in providing power to the site
- TxDOT or the local government has plans for future construction project impacting crossing
- local opposition to project
- safety upgrade for previous crash history not easily identified
- crossing is already gated with signals up to current standards, and preemption already provided or crossing not near a highway intersection.
The TRF-RSS Project Manager will issue a letter to the railroad company with a copy to the local government and District Railroad Coordinator informing them of the decision. In some cases, minor upgrades may still be recommended to the local government or District via a separate letter or memo. These may include:
- signing and striping upgrades
- roadway surface improvements
- tree trimming or removal of sight obstructions.
No Further Action Letters are uploaded into the TRIMS Project Management Module by the TRF-RSS Project Manager.