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Section 2: Rail-Highway Projects

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TxDOT Projects on Railroad Right-of-Way

With few exceptions, an agreement between TxDOT and the operating railroad company must be in place giving TxDOT permission to enter into and perform work on railroad right-of-way. Any work performed by the railroad company in conjunction with the project is usually fully reimbursed by TxDOT, unless the railroad company has crossed TxDOT right-of-way by spur permit or the railroad company has agreed to cost participate on the project. Details of cost participation and reimbursement are provided in the project agreement between TxDOT and the railroad company.

The TxDOT Traffic Operations Division-Rail Safety Section (TRF-RSS) serves as the Office of Primary Responsibility for executing agreements with railroad companies on rail-highway projects.

Typically a separate Contractor Right-of-Entry Agreement is required between TxDOT’s contractor and the railroad company to allow the contractor to do work on behalf of TxDOT on railroad right-of-way.

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Types of Work with Benefit to a Railroad Company

When designing projects that impact railroad rights-of-way, TxDOT must negotiate with the railroad company on project design, costs, construction schedule, and various terms of the agreement. Designers should be aware of projects which typically provide benefit to railroad companies and projects which are generally discouraged by railroad companies.

Projects that usually provide benefit to railroad companies include:

  • closing an at-grade crossing
  • grade separating an existing at-grade crossing (overpasses preferred)
  • safety upgrades to at-grade crossings, such as installation of lights and gates or traffic signal preemption
  • improving drainage on railroad right-of-way.

Projects that are generally discouraged by railroad companies include:

  • new at-grade crossings
  • widening at-grade crossings (to support increased vehicular traffic)
  • overpass projects that do not span the railroad right-of-way or do not meet preferred horizontal and vertical clearances
  • underpass projects which do not meet railroad company design requirements or have significant impact on railroad operations during construction
  • joint drainage projects which include grading, fill placement or cut lines on railroad right-of-way (highway parallel to rail line)
  • any project which restricts addition of future track.
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Maintenance Responsibilities

In Texas, the road authority and railroad company assume both separate and joint maintenance responsibilities at rail-highway grade crossings. The crossing surface panels over the railroad where the roadway crosses the rail line, railroad warning devices within railroad right-of-way, and vegetation on railroad right-of-way are maintained by the railroad company. Since the crossing surface panels extend down the roadway to the edges of the railroad ties, the railroad company maintains the roadway surface from the edge of railroad tie to edge of railroad tie.

The road authority is responsible for maintaining the roadway approaches up to the edge of the crossing surface, advanced signing, and pavement markings.

Joint maintenance responsibilities are typically found with common ditches between a highway and rail line, as well as other drainage and traffic signal preemption features.

While local, state, and federal governmental entities may provide funds for the replacement or upgrade of crossing surface panels and railroad warning devices, the railroad company is generally responsible for performing this work.

See “State Laws Applicable to Rail-Highway Projects” in Chapter 14 for various state laws related to maintenance at railroad crossings.

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Types of Agreements

Examples of common agreements executed with railroad companies include:

  • Letter of Authority (LoA): Preliminary engineering agreement to allow the railroad company to charge TxDOT for engineering plan review, create railroad estimates, and other project preliminary engineering work.
  • Maintenance Agreement: Simple agreement notifying the railroad company of the type of maintenance work. The agreement will also include an authorization for the railroad company to provide railroad flaggers.
  • Joint Use Agreement: Typically used for constructing and maintaining a common ditch or other drainage work that benefits both the railroad company and TxDOT.
  • Pipe/ Wireline License Agreement: Used to allow for the installation and maintenance of TxDOT utility structures such as storm drains, wireline crossings for lighting, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) or preemption, etc.
  • Construction & Maintenance Agreement: Agreement allowing TxDOT to construct and maintain an existing or new road crossing on the railroad right-of-way and to reimburse the railroad company for their expenses. The agreement may also include property rights descriptions to document railroad right-of-way encumbered by the TxDOT project.
  • Contractor Right-of-Entry Agreement: Allows a contractor onto railroad right-of-way to perform intrusive work. The agreement includes indemnification, rules and regulations and other requirements while the contractor is on railroad right-of-way.

These agreements will be discussed in greater detail later in this manual.

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