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HighwayRailroad Grade Crossing Studies by bbp18167


									Highway/Railroad Grade Crossing Studies:
Improving Safety Through Information Technology

                            By Ken Gerling, P.E., and Cleve             crossings based on accident poten-
                            DeVault, P.E.                               tial. The highest-ranked crossings
                                                                        become candidates to receive feder-
                                                                        al funds for roadway safety
                            Introduction                                improvements. The Kansas railway
                            Operation Lifesaver, a national, non-       network consists of 17 rail carriers,
                            profit public education program dedi-       over 5,000 track miles and more
                            cated to reducing crashes at high-          than 6,200 public at-grade crossings
                            way/railroad intersections, reports         in the state (Figure 1). To receive the
                            that nationwide in 1999, about 400          most benefit from limited federal
   Helping find ways to     people died from train/vehicle colli-
                            sions at grade crossings and another
                                                                        funds, KDOT strives to make safety
                                                                        improvements first to those cross-
                            1,360 people were injured.                  ings that have the most potential for
     reduce accidents at                                                accidents.
                            Helping find ways to reduce accidents
   grade crossings is the   at grade crossings is the driving force     Burns & McDonnell is assisting the
                            behind a study Burns & McDonnell is         state by updating the analytical
   driving force behind a   conducting for the Kansas
                            Department of Transportation
                                                                        tools and data supporting the cross-
                                                                        ing management program. The proj-
                            (KDOT). KDOT is responsible for             ect involves visiting all of Kansas’
          study Burns &     managing the federally funded               public crossings to update the state
                            (Section 130) grade crossing safety         and federal inventory, updating the
   McDonnell is conduct-    program for upgrading public road-          existing ranking equation and
                            way/rail crossings in Kansas. The           developing a software application to
      ing for the Kansas    safety program involves maintaining
                            an updated inventory of crossing
                                                                        provide tools for viewing and ana-
                                                                        lyzing the multitude of data in the
                            characteristics and prioritizing the        crossing inventory.
          Department of

                                                                 Figure 1
                                                            Kansas Rail Network

                                             6                                      Burns & McDonnell
Field Collection                           Ranking Formula Development                 each variable, such as average daily
KDOT was doing a re-inventory of           To select locations that have the most      traffic and accidents. Regression
about 10 counties per year. With 103       potential for accidents, KDOT uses a        analysis is used to determine what
counties in Kansas that have rail serv-    multi-phase safety improvement deci-        significant linear or non-linear (e.g.
ice, crossings were updated once           sion process. The first phase involves      logarithmic, exponential or quadratic)
every 10 years. With the help of cre-      the initial ranking of the crossings        relationship would best predict future
ative staffing techniques, Burns &         using an empirically derived formula        accidents.
McDonnell was able to visit all public     to create a list of candidate locations.
highway/railroad crossings in the          The formula takes into consideration        Application Development
state within 12 weeks.                     characteristics such as volume of
                                                                                       The existing crossing database is
                                           highway traffic and train traffic, train
                                                                                       stored as a flat file within an outdated
To accomplish the field inventory, a       speed, crossing angle and number of
                                                                                       mainframe computer. KDOT is mak-
study was conducted to determine           tracks. Once a candidate list is gener-
                                                                                       ing an organization-wide conversion
what items were important to collect       ated, a diagnostic team conducts a
                                                                                       to an Oracle relational database plat-
and the most efficient way to collect      field review to verify the existing con-
                                                                                       form. This presents an excellent
them. Time and motion tests were also      ditions and determine the appropriate
                                                                                       opportunity for KDOT to take advan-
conducted to forecast the amount of        type of upgrade for the crossing.
                                                                                       tage of recent developments in infor-
labor required to complete collection
                                                                                       mation technology to help make
within the project schedule. Because       The current empirically derived for-
                                                                                       informed decisions about highway/
of the quantity of data being collected    mula is being evaluated to verify that
                                                                                       railroad grade crossing safety
(over 400,000 field items) it was also     it still reflects recent accident trends.
                                                                                       improvements. Burns & McDonnell
necessary to develop an efficient          The evaluation consists of a two-step
                                                                                       evaluated several alternatives before it
means of storing and transferring the      process involving an analysis of past
                                                                                       was determined that a unique soft-
data to the office for incorporation       accidents and a statistical analysis.
                                                                                       ware application was needed to meet
into the database.
                                                                                       all of KDOT’s functionality require-
                                           The past accident analysis combined
                                                                                       ments, including the ability to:
Burns & McDonnell recruited 32 col-        the Kansas accident database with the
                                                                                        • Generate queries (data requests)
lege students majoring in engineering      new inventory data. To help identify
                                                                                           and reports from a graphical (map)
and GIS technologies to complete the       trends, graphs were generated to rep-
field work over the summer. The            resent the distribution of accidents
                                                                                        • Automate the ranking equation
crews collected more than 60 charac-       with respect to the variables used in
                                                                                           under different "what if" scenarios
teristics about each location using GPS    the rating formula and the breakdown
                                                                                        • View digital photographs
receivers, digital cameras and elec-       of number of accidents by type of
tronic data collectors. The data includ-   warning device.
                                                                                       The application, Crossing Inventory
ed road/rail intersection coordinates,
                                                                                       Information Management System, or
24-hour traffic counts, photographs,       The statistical analysis began by
                                                                                       CIIMS (Figure 2) will be developed
warning signs and crossing device          assembling the data set and splitting it
                                                                                       using Visual Basic 6.0 to lace together
inventories.                               into two using stratified randomiza-
                                                                                       a wide variety of functions under a
                                           tion to minimize biases; one set is
                                                                                       single program. One of those func-
The majority of data was captured in       used for formula development/testing
                                                                                       tions includes spatial analysis. Spatial
the field on pen-based computers that      and the other for validation. Once the
operated on a Windows CE environ-          data sets are assembled, a Pearson
ment. The crossing data and digital        correlation matrix is developed show-
photos were stored on 10 MB "flash         ing the correlative strength between
cards." At the end of each day, the
crews uploaded the data files and
photographs to the home office FTP
(File Transfer Protocol) site.

               TechBriefs                                       7
analysis is carried out with geograph-       Conclusion
ic information system (GIS) controls         KDOT realizes that without sufficient
that are imbedded in the application.        tools for analysis, it is difficult to take
Spatial analysis will allow the user to      advantage of the abundance of infor-
analyze multiple layers of information       mation that is available through the
from both a geographic and tabular           personal computer. Therefore, KDOT
interface to help determine which            is implementing recent advancements
crossings have the most potential for        in data collection, data storage, data
accidents, which crossings are candi-        management and the analysis of infor-
dates for closure and which ones             mation. The utilization of information
should be upgraded. The application          technology will greatly enhance their         Ken Gerling is a project man-
will also convert the data to the            method for inventorying grade cross-          ager in Burns & McDonnell’s
Federal Railroad Administration’s            ings and identifying those that have          transportation department. He
(FRA) required format so that it can         the highest potential for accidents in
                                                                                           has a bachelor’s degree in civil
be electronically transferred to update      an effort to improve safety for
the national grade crossing inventory.       motorists across Kansas.                      engineering from the University
                                                                                           of Missouri-Kansas City and a
                                                                                           master’s degree in engineering
                                                                                           management from the University
                                                                                           of Kansas.

                                                                                           Cleve N. DeVault is manager
                                                                                           of Burns & McDonnell’s GIS
                                                                                           Services. He has a bachelor’s
                                                                                           degree in history from Ohio
                                                                                           Wesleyan, a bachelor’s degree in
                                                                                           civil engineering and a master’s
                                                                                           degree in geotechnical engineer-
                                               Figure 2                                    ing, both from Ohio State
                         Crossing Inventory Information Management System

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