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Section 2: Bridge Railing for Pedestrians

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FHWA Policy

Railing on the outside edge of a bridge with adjacent pedestrian walkway must be 42 inches minimum in height, measured from the top of the walkway.

A vehicular bridge with a speed of 45 mph or below is considered a low-speed facility, and it does not require a separator railing if pedestrians use it. A bridge with a speed 50 mph and above is considered a high-speed facility, and it must have a separator railing if pedestrians use it. See Appendix B, "Acceptable Placement of Bridge Railing for Vehicular and Non-vehicular Traffic," for more information.

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Texas Policy

  • Combination Railing. Combination railing is designed for use on the outside of raised sidewalks when no separator railing is used on a facility with speeds of 45 mph or below. Combination railing must meet MASH or NCHRP Report 350 criteria.

    Only Combination Railing Types C1W, C402, C412 and C4(S) are currently approved for use on a high speed facility.

    Openings between horizontal or vertical members on combination railing must be small enough that a 6-inch sphere cannot pass through them in the lower 27 inches. For the portion of combination railing that is higher than 27 inches, openings may be spaced such that an 8-inch sphere cannot pass through them.

  • Pedestrian Railing. Railing adjacent to pedestrian walkways must comply with the geometry and strength requirements of current AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications.1 Openings between horizontal or vertical members on pedestrian railings must be small enough that a 6-inch sphere cannot pass through them in the lower 27 inches. For the portion of pedestrian railing that is higher than 27 inches, openings may be spaced such that an 8-inch sphere cannot pass through them.

    Requirements for sidewalks in Texas are documented in the Roadway Design Manual, Chapter 2, Section 6.

  • Separator Railing. Separator railing is located between the traffic lanes and the pedestrian walkway. Traffic and combination railings may be used.

    Separator railing may be appropriate on lower speed bridges that are close to schools or that have significant pedestrian traffic. Sites should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    When using a separator railing, attach a metal-beam guard fence and terminate it at the edge of the roadway shoulder, letting pedestrians walk behind the guard fence. If needed, a crash cushion can be used to absorb railing end impact energy. A curb will adversely affect the performance of a barrier terminal.

  • Protective Containment Cages. Some pedestrian-use bridges and walkways may pose a threat to vehicles or trains from vandals throwing objects. These bridges and walkways may have a protective containment cage for the pedestrians. It is a local or railroad company decision about whether a fence or containment cage is required at a particular site. Full containment cages on Texas bridges require minimum headroom for all walks and tunnels of 8 ft. More headroom may be required based on the needs of users.

    The CLF-RO standard drawing provides details for an 8 ft. chain link fence attached to the backside of a limited number of concrete parapets for the purpose of railroad protection.


1. "AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications," American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Sixth Edition, 2012.

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