Safety and Mobility Improvement at Highway-rail Grade Crossings Using Real-Time Optimized Preemption of Traffic Signal Strategies

At an urban highway-rail grade crossing (HRGC) where a signalized intersection is located in close proximity, hazardous situations may arise due to the queue of roadway vehicles blocking the crossing area. Preemption signal operation strategies at intersections near HRGCs are widely used to prevent accidents by clearing vehicles off the tracks before a train arrives. This project studies the potential of optimizing preemption strategies to maximize the separation of traffic hazards between HRGCs and intersections in adjacent arterials. To this end, three main objectives are pursued. First, the project will start with reviewing and identifying key limitations and conflicts in the current preemption operations. A holistic review of national guidelines, manuals, and current engineering practices will be investigated. Second, the project will verify the effectiveness of signal preemptions and the interconnections between HRGCs on a railway corridor and the nearby intersections on an arterial. This task will be implemented through developing microsimulation models and conducting sensitivity analysis. Various preemption plans that account for different HRGC scenarios will be examined. Third, the project will develop a standard optimization process for designing preemption plans with the goal to maximize the safety at the HRGCs and nearby intersections, and to enhance the efficiency of the arterial intersections. As a result, a generic guideline will be eventually provided. The benefits of this project are twofold. First, it will provide a standardized process of evaluating the effectiveness of the signal control at HRGCs and the adjacent arterials as a whole, and confirm the cost-benefit threshold that warrants the application of preemption strategies. Second, the resulting guideline is expected to systematically provide technical support on the preemption control strategies in terms of application conditions, plan formation, and system operations, etc. The guideline is also expected to bridge gaps in understanding concepts, facilitating implementation, and improving coordination between railway and highway agencies.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $201,434
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Mid-America Transportation Center

    University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    2200 Vine Street, PO Box 830851
    Lincoln, NE  United States  68583-0851
  • Project Managers:

    Stearns, Amy

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Nebraska, Lincoln

    1400 R Street
    Lincoln, NE  United States  68588
  • Principal Investigators:

    Zhao, Li

  • Start Date: 20211101
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230415
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program
  • Source Data: RiP Project 91994-105

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01844246
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mid-America Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747107
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Apr 27 2022 2:43PM