Rail Crossing Safety Fact Sheet

Accident Prediction Models Using Macro- and Micro-Scale Analysis

This research is developing a method for analyzing rail crossing crashes at a micro level to discover trends at a single crossing or a series of crossings along a corridor or within a region. This will allow researchers to improve the accuracy of crash predictions by incorporating the findings from the microscopic analyses into a macroscopic model and studying the regional trends that emerge but that are not observed at a national level. With this information, researchers can identify contributing risk factors that will help highway departments select crossings for safety improvements and determine the proper countermeasures at individual high-crash crossing locations.

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Accurate Prediction of Train Arrival Times for Emergency Response Management and Driver Decision Support

This project is studying train delays to accurately estimate train arrival times at grade crossings—leading to effective management of emergency response and helping alert drivers at unsignalized crossings through personal navigation devices. Delays at such crossings have been shown to be inherently variable, which illustrates the need for advanced prediction algorithms to reliably estimate arrival times as well as the uncertainty associated with the arrival times at grade crossings. Forecasting arrival times will involve acquisition of train positioning information to predict delay and developing historic and real-time statistical algorithms.

For more information:

  • Contact Daniel Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217-333-8038, dbwork@illinois.edu

Positioning, Planning, and Operation of Emergency Response Resources and Coordination Between Jurisdictions


Recent years have seen a significant increase in trains carrying hazardous materials such as oil, gas, and ethanol. Rail safety is a critical issue in Midwestern states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota because many of these trains pass through the Twin Cities, Chicago, and other population centers on their journey to East Coast refineries. This project is aiming to develop ways to strategically position and allocate emergency responders and resources in the event of a rail incident. This would include multijurisdictional agreements among stakeholders to allow responders to cross state or local boundaries.

To do so, researchers are developing mathematical models and techniques to enable systematic analysis of the emergency response system. The research will consider the vulnerability of the emergency response system itself, such as the risk of blocked crossings or other disruptions to the transportation network for first-responders. The result will provide operations guidelines and practical tools to policymakers to encourage systems that support safe and efficient railroad industry operations.

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