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Section 2: Railroad Grade Separation Program (RGS)

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Overview

The Railroad Grade Separation Program (RGS) is funded under Category 6 (Structures Replacement and Rehabilitation) of the UTP. Annual funding for the program varies, but is currently at $25 million. Projects and funding are approved on an annual basis by the Texas Transportation Commission. Funding is 80% federal and 20% state.

Projects eligible for the program must be on the state highway system, with a functional classification greater than local road or rural minor collector.

The program is divided into two program areas:

  • grade separations of existing at-grade crossings
  • replacement of functionally deficient highway underpasses.

The Texas Transportation Commission approves the funding levels and methods used to prioritize and select projects by Commission Minute Order authorizing the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

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Installation of Grade Separations at Existing At-Grade Crossings

Projects for the construction of grade separations at existing highway-rail at-grade crossings under the RGS Program are prioritized by TRF-RSS using a cost-benefit index (CBI). The CBI ranks the estimated savings (in millions of dollars) that would be realized over 50 years with construction of grade separated structures.

In order to compute the CBI, the following data is first required for each crossing:

  • AADT
  • trains per day (both through and switching movements)
  • total fatalities
  • total injuries
  • total crashes.

The total fatalities, total injuries, and total crashes should be based on a recent set of data that represents current conditions at the crossing. For example, if a recent safety project upgraded the crossing with lights and gates, the data should be based on a time frame after the lights and gates were installed.

The following assumptions are made in the CBI calculation:

  • cost per fatality
  • cost per injury
  • cost of property damage per crash
  • time average train occupies a crossing (5 minutes)
  • personnel costs per hour per car
  • personnel costs per hour per truck
  • cost per stop per car
  • cost per stop per truck
  • average delay per vehicle stopped by a train (3 minutes)
  • 80% of vehicular traffic is cars
  • 20% of vehicular traffic is trucks.

The cost per fatality, cost per injury, and cost of property damage per crash are provided by the National Safety Council. Personnel costs are updated annually by CST based on multiplying the previous year’s numbers by the Consumer Price Index.

The CBI for each at-grade crossing is calculated by completing the following steps:

  1. Calculate the crash cost per year.
  2. Calculate vehicles stopped per year.
  3. Calculate the personnel delay cost per year.
  4. Calculate the equipment delay cost per year.
  5. Calculate the CBI.
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Step 1: Calculate the Crash Cost Per Year

Calculate the costs of fatalities, injuries, and property damage separately. Then add the three costs for a total crash cost:

  • (1) Total fatalities x Cost per fatality = Total Fatality Cost
  • (2) Total injuries x Cost per injury = Total Injury Cost
  • (3) Total crashes x Cost of property damage per crash = Total Property Damage Cost
  • Sum of (1), (2), and (3) = Total Crash Cost.

Determine the crash cost per year by dividing the total crash cost by the year range of crash data:

  • Crash cost per year = Total Crash Cost / Year Range of Crash Data.
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Step 2: Calculate Vehicles Stopped Per Year

The following assumptions are implied:

  • Time a train occupies a crossing is 5 minutes, or 5/60 hour
  • Vehicles per hour = 1/24 x AADT
  • Vehicles stopped per train = 5/60 x 1/24 x AADT
  • Vehicles stopped per day = 5/60 x 1/24 x trains per day x AADT.

Therefore:

  • Vehicles stopped per year = 365 x 5/60 x 1/24 x trains per day x AADT
  • Vehicles stopped per year = 1.26736 x trains per day x AADT.
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Step 3: Calculate the Personnel Delay Cost Per Year

Using the assumptions shown previously:

  • Personnel cost per stop = 3/60 x (Personnel costs per hour per car x 0.80 + Personnel costs per hour per truck x 0.20)

Therefore:

  • Personnel delay cost per year = Personnel cost per stop x Vehicles stopped per year.
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Step 4: Calculate the Equipment Delay Cost Per Year

Using the assumptions shown previously:

  • Equipment cost per stop = Cost per stop per car x 0.80 + Cost per stop per truck x 0.20

Therefore:

  • Equipment delay cost per year = Equipment cost per stop x Vehicles stopped per year.
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Step 5: Calculate the CBI

The CBI is calculated using the crash cost, personnel delay cost, and equipment delay cost. Costs are estimated over a 50 year expected life cycle of the grade separation and divided by $1,000,000 for simplicity.

  • CBI = (crash cost per year + personnel delay cost per year + equipment delay cost per year) x 50 / $1,000,000.
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Replacement of Functionally Deficient Highway Underpasses

Selection and funding for the replacement of functionally deficient highway underpasses under the RGS Program are determined by a Bridge Inventory, Inspection, and Appraisal Program (BRINSAP) sufficiency rating. The following factors are considered:

  • roadway width
  • vertical clearance
  • right lateral clearance
  • AADT per lane
  • estimated construction cost per AADT.

In addition to improving horizontal and vertical clearance, underpasses may be converted to overpasses under the RGS Program.

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Integrating Grade Separation Projects with Underpass Projects

TRF-RSS works with the Bridge Division to jointly prioritize the highest priority grade separation and underpass projects. Areas for consideration in prioritizing these projects include:

  • cost of construction
  • constructability and design issues
  • available program year funding
  • district or TxDOT priority projects
  • primary and secondary freight networks
  • status of PS&E, utilities, and right-of-way
  • railroad company priorities.

After projects are selected and funding is obligated on the projects, TRF-RSS works with the districts and railroad companies to secure the proper agreements as described in Chapter 2 of this manual.

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