Railroad/Highway At-Grade Crossings - Section 130 Guidelines

Section 130 Overview 


The purpose of the Railroad/Highway At-Grade Crossing Program is to reduce the number and severity of highway accidents by eliminating hazards to vehicles and pedestrians at existing railroad crossings. The program is authorized by Title 23, United States Code, Section 130 (23 U.S.C. 130), and addresses the development of railroad/highway at-grade crossing improvement projects.

The program reflects the railway-highway program reporting requirements as presented under the under Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act protocols, as shown on the Federal Highway Administration website.

Project Eligibility

Railroad/highway at-grade crossing improvement projects include, but are not limited to, installation and improvement of railroad protection systems at grade crossings, such as:

  • Approach improvements (channelization, traffic signals, guardrails, pedestrian/bicycle path improvements, illumination)
  • Signage and pavement marking improvements
  • Active warning equipment installation/upgrades (flashing lights and gates, track circuitry, signal interconnection and preemption, wayside horns)
  • Visibility improvements (sight distance improvements, vegetation clearance)
  • Roadway geometry improvements (horizontal and vertical alignment such as humped crossings)
  • Grade crossing elimination (through roadway closure)

To clarify the difference between Closure and Abandonment, the following definitions are used:

  • Closure of a highway/railroad grade crossing- a condition that occurs when vehicular traffic is removed from conflict with railroad traffic at-grade through the construction of physical barriers that prevent such conflicts or the removal of the vehicular roadway, i.e., pavement from the crossing.
  • Abandonment of a highway/railroad grade crossing- a condition that occurs when railroad traffic is removed from conflict with at-grade vehicular traffic through the cessation of all railroad operation, or the removal of tracks from the crossing. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is responsible for enforcing the removal of tracks from abandoned at-grade crossings.
  • Note: the CPUC determines the scope of work needed to eliminate vehicular and pedestrian hazards. Because of the limited amount of funds the CPUC must clarify the extent of relocation or realignment of highway and railroad projects that are eligible under the 130 program. Moreover, railroad/highway at-grade crossings must be included on the list of public crossings recommended for improvement by the CPUC, to qualify for Federal funds. Improvements for at-grade crossings not listed by the CPUC will not be funded via Section 130.
  • A project must satisfy the following requirements to qualify for Federal funds:

    • Project must be on a public road
    • Project must be included on the CPUC’s Section 130 priority list


  • Projects must be included in the appropriate Federal Transportation Improvement Program (FTIP) developed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Federal Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (FSTIP) approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Improvements to grade crossings to accommodate both existing and future commuter and intercity passenger trains shall, to the extent possible, be paid for by special funds established for creation of additional commuter and intercity passenger service and NOT with Section 130 funds. Projects are evaluated under existing conditions and any roadway widening projects to improve roadway capacity will not be considered under this program. However, additional roadway improvements may be considered but only if funded separately using other funding source

Project Selection and Programming Procedures

Section 1201 of the CPUC Code provides that no public road, highway, or street shall be constructed across the track of any railroad at-grade, nor shall the track of any railroad be constructed across a public road, highway, or street without first securing permission from the CPUC. CPUC permission is also required to alter, relocate, abandon, or close any railroad/highway crossing. All applications or notices to the CPUC to construct or alter any grade crossing on a county road or city street are filed by the local agency or railroad. The GO 88-B must be submitted and approved by the CPUC prior to construction, but after funding has been secured. Project amounts for this program must be included in the FTIP developed by each MPO and in the FSTIP in order to obtain Federal authorization and obligate funds. The priority list is developed by the CPUC, and is updated annually.

The following is the general schedule and procedures for developing the annual list and program:

  1. The CPUC identifies and prioritizes project locations. Projects are developed in coordination with local agencies, railroads and Caltrans.
  2. The local agency, railroad and Caltrans (if on a state route) provide concurrence and agree to the project and scope of work. Signing of the Agreement indicates agreement with that scope of work and commitment to proceeding with the project, once funding has been approved.
  3. The CPUC submits the Section 130 Priority List to Caltrans, Division of Rail and Mass Transportation (DRMT), by the first week of August, each year.
  4. The DRMT submits project estimates, ROW and environmental certifications for Federal funding approval by the first week of December, each year.
  5. Upon approval of Federal funding, DRMT will submit contracts for execution by local agencies, railroads and Caltrans.
  6. Upon full execution of the contract Agreement, the Notice to Proceed will be given.
  7. Local Agencies and/or Railroads will apply for the GO 88-B prior to beginning construction.

Project Funding

Federal Share of Cost

Federal funding for the Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing Program is derived from the annual apportionment for the Surface Transportation Program (STP). Ten percent of the annual STP apportionment is reserved for the safety programs defined by the Section 130- railroad/highway crossing improvements (Division of Rail) and 152 – hazard elimination projects (Division of Traffic Operations). The estimated program funding level for the Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing Program is approximately $16 million per year.

Railroad or Local Share of Cost
  • State law requiring railroads to share in the cost of work at railroad/highway grade crossings does not apply to Federal-aid projects. Pursuant to Title 23 U.S.C. 130(b) and 49 code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 1.48:
  • There shall be no required railroad share of the costs for grade crossing improvements.
  • There shall be no required railroad share of the costs for grade crossing improvements that involve the elimination of grade crossings at which active warning devices are not in place nor have been ordered installed by the CPUC.
  • Railroads may voluntarily contribute a greater share of project cost than is required. Also, other parties may voluntarily assume the railroad or local agency share.
  • The local agency is responsible for maintaining advance warning signs and pavement markings according to the specifications of Chapter 8 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (CA MUTCD).

Ineligible Costs

Work performed prior to Federal project authorization (see Chapter 3, “Project Authorization” in theLocal Assistance Procedures Manual)is not eligible for Federal reimbursement under Section 130 Program. Section 130 funding is not available for removal of abandoned railroad tracks on previously abandoned railroads. If a railroad crossing is on the CPUC recommended list of projects and the railroad chooses to abandon the crossing, rather than improve it, the cost for track removal and other costs associated with returning the roadway to a safe usable condition, may be allowed at the discretion and agreement of Caltrans and CPUC.

Federal funds are not available to cover costs incurred solely for the benefit of the railroad. Federal funds may participate in the cost of providing space for future track requirements when it is established to the satisfaction of the CPUC, Caltrans and the FHWA, that additional tracks will be needed within a reasonable amount of time.

Project Development Requirements (Design)

Facilities that are the responsibility of the railroad for maintenance and operation shall conform to the standards established in the State CPUC Code and CPUC General Orders (GO). Any deviation from these standards are subject to CPUC approval.

On projects where Federal-aid funds are used, the type of protection needed is determined by the CPUC, in accordance with the CA MUTCD and Caltrans, where State highways are involved. Likewise, for crossings where automatic gates with flashing light signals are not required, the type of warning device to be installed is subject to the approval of the CPUC, and Caltrans where State highways are involved.

Traffic control devices and pavement markings shall comply with the latest edition of the CA MUTCD, supplemented to the extent applicable by State standards and the current industry best practices and/or requirements. State standards require advance warning signs (W10-1) at most crossings. Such grade crossing warning devices should also comply with the CPUC Standards as specified in the CPUC’s General Orders.

Environmental Review

Caltrans is responsible for conducting and documenting the necessary environmental reviews to ascertain any adverse environmental impacts. Based on past experience, Grade Crossing Improvements Program projects typically do not involve significant environmental impacts and qualify as “Categorical Exclusions (CE’s) when such projects:

  • Do not induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use for the area.
  • Do not require the relocation of significant numbers of people.
  • Do not have a significant impact on any natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resource.
  • Do not involve significant air, noise, or water quality impacts.
  • Do not have significant impacts on travel patterns.
  • Do not otherwise, either individually or cumulatively, have any significant environmental impacts.

Railroad-Local Agency Agreements and Certifications (Railroad Facilities Statement in Right of Way Certification)

Local agency certifications regarding the status of affected railroad facilities must be signed, certified and submitted to the DRMT. Documentation as to the acceptability of the local agency railroad facility arrangements must be on filebeforethe approval of federal funding is requested.


Both the local agency and railroad must have agreements in place to perform work in or near the other’s right of way.


Where there is construction of a Federal-aid project involving a local agency, and requiring the use of railroad properties or the adjustment to railroad facilities, there shall be an agreement in writing between the local agency and the railroad.
The written agreement between the local agency and the railroad should include the following where applicable:

  • A clause stating,"The Company's books pertaining to the work shall be open to inspection and audit by representatives of the State and the FHWA for a three-year period after the FHWA payment of final voucher."
  • A method of payment.
  • The extent to which the railroad is obligated to move or adjust the facilities at its own expense.
  • The railroad’s share of the cost.
  • An itemized cost estimate of the work to be performed by the railroad.
  • Identification of the party or parties responsible for maintenance.
  • Form, duration, and amounts of any needed insurance.
  • References to plans and specifications.
  • A definition of those conditions, under which protective services will be performed by the railroad during the work. The nature of such protective services will be defined, along with a method of reimbursement to the railroad.
  • Whatever detailed plans of the existing situation the local agency may have that will aid the railroad in the expeditious design and construction of the proposed improvement.

The local agency enters into its own easement agreement with the railroad to secure the necessary rights of way. When necessary, these agreements shall be completed prior to Right of Way certification, and certified as part of that document prior to submission to the DRMT.

Project Implementation

As soon as possible, the local agency and railroad shall furnish to the other the railroad plans of proposed work. The plans should show the following, as appropriate to each entity:

  • Plan of crossing
  • Existing and proposed protection
  • Width of paving
  • Tracks
  • Significant topography
  • Limits of right-of-way
  • Profile of highway approaches – if changes have been proposed
  • Other details sufficient to allow proper location of protective devices.
  • As part of the Section 130 Priority List, the CPUC will submit estimates for each project’s scope of work.
  • Caltrans executes a service contract with the railroad and/or local agency and assigns Federal Funding according to the funding prioritization schedule. Funding will not be obligated on grade crossing improvement projects that have pending right of way acquisitions.
  • After the Service contracts are executed and a copy returned to the railroad or local agency, by the DRMT, this would serve as the “Notice to Proceed” with the work of the project.
  • The railroad and local agency may perform force account work, of, if non-railroad (highway) work is involved, the local agency may award construction through competitive bidding. On force account projects, the railroad shall submit to the DRMT four (4) copies of invoices according to the form described in the Service Contract. Caltrans audits all bills for compliance with applicable Federal regulations to determine the eligibility of the items.
  • Railroad companies and local agencies are expected to begin work immediately, and complete the project within three years.
  • The local agency is responsible for installing and maintaining advance warning signs and pavement markings.
  • The railroad issues an “in-service” letter (to the DRMT) when work is complete. Also, the railroad must file a Form G (see exhibit) with the CPUC, in order to notify CPUC staff to perform a final inspection.
  • Caltrans will perform an inspection with, or in consultation with the CPUC,local agencies, and railroad to determine if the project is complete.
  • Caltrans may perform a project audit, respond to any audit exceptions and prepare a Final Voucher for submittal to FHWA.
  • FHWA approves the Final Voucher and Caltrans completes final payment of project funds.
  • The Railroad and local agency must keep records and documentation for three years after the final vouchering and /or audit is completed.

Program Administration

This program is administered centrally from Caltrans Headquarters on a statewide basis. Caltrans formed the Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Branch, within the DRMT, and is tasked with implementing this program. Caltrans is responsible for funding, contracting and oversight of the Section 130 projects. The CPUC is responsible for the development and administration of the Section 130 priority list, development and updates to the final scope of work, preliminary plan drawings, project cost estimates and approval of the GO-88B request.


Local agencies and railroad companiesare requiredto provide an update of the project schedules and costsin writing every three (3) monthsfrom the date of the Notice to Proceed (NTP).Local agencies or railroads that fail to provide these semi-annual updates may result in their projects being dropped from the program.Updates will include the following information, as necessary (see exhibit).

  • An update of the cost, if the cost has been changed
  • An update of the construction schedule

If no action of any kind has occurred on a project over a period of three months after the NTP, Caltrans will request review of the project progress from the Railroad and/or local agency. This information is needed to ensure timely project delivery. If the project is experiencing significant delays, the agreement may be canceled so that the funds can be programmed on other projects.


If any increase in project cost or need of a time extension is anticipated, it should be immediately brought to the attention of the DRMT for a review of the justification of the cost increase and/or schedule change, before expiration of the agreement.This must be done before expenditures are incurred in excess of the contract amount.If this increase in cost and/or schedule change is adequately justified and approved by the DRMT, a new Service Contract Supplement will be initiated, followed by a NTP. A copy of the Service Contract Supplement for cost increase and/or time extension will be provided to the local agency and/or railroad company.


Federal directives require that the results of safety improvements be evaluated three years after the project is completed. Each project listed must have a before-and-after evaluation. Safety deficiencies corrected by this program largely justifies the prioritizing methods and future funding. This evaluation is contained in the annual Highway Safety Improvement Plan (HSIP) report, compiled by the CPUC and Caltrans and submitted to FHWA.

Additional Information and Guidance


Caltrans California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD)
Part 8-Traffic Control for Railroad and Lightrail Transit Grade Crossings(PDF)


Rail/Highway Grade Crossing Safety