Indiana became known as the “Crossroads of America” in the 19th century, long before interstate highways crossed our state. It was because of the many railroads that ran across our state.
Today, many busy railroad lines carry both freight and passenger trains across Indiana. Indiana’s rail freight traffic has increased considerably in recent years and is expected to increase further in the years ahead. Virtually all rail freight coming from the east coast bound for Chicago must pass through the Northwest Indiana rail corridor.
Indiana has more at grade public highway-rail crossings than all but four other states. Indiana also has a large number of grade-separated crossings. More than half of the at grade public highway-rail crossings in Indiana have train activated warning devices, which is better than the national average.
Unfortunately, installation of train activated lights and gates will not solve the whole problem of highway-rail crossing safety. Driver behavior is a significant contributor, because more than half of all crashes at railroad crossings occur at crossings equipped with flashing lights and gates that are in place and operating.
Thanks to progress, both on warning devices and on educating the public, fatalities, and personal injury crashes at highway-rail crossings have decreased substantially over the past several decades.
Indiana has in place a Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Action Plan designed to:
- Reduce the number of public grade crossings
- Encourage grade separations where possible to bridge over or under busy rail lines
- Accelerate education and enforcement statewide
- Improve passive warning devices to the latest standards
- Upgrade active warning devices at crossings exhibiting the greatest need
- Focus attention on grade crossings with a recent history of multiple collisions
Public vs. Private Crossings
Private crossings are not required to have advance warning signs or other markings and are located on roadways not maintained by a public authority. For example, a privately owned road or driveway leading into a factory or onto a farm field is classified as a private crossing.
Public crossings are located on public highways, roads, and streets and are required to have advance warning signs and cross bucks by state law. Some public crossings may also have train activated warning devices such as flashing lights or gates.
Basic information about any public or private crossing, including the crash history at the crossing, is available at the Federal Rail Administration.
Indiana Public At-Grade Crossing Warning Devices
Warning Device Number % of Total Active — Flashing Lights and Gates 2,085 36.1%
Active — Flashing Lights Only
Other 134 2.3% Passive — Cross Bucks with stop signs 993 17.2% Passive — Cross Bucks Only 1,381 23.9% Totals 5,778 100%
Indiana Rail Crossing Types*
Type At-Grade Crossings Grade Separated Crossings All Crossings Public
905 6,683 Private
71 2,012 Pedestrian
19 63 Totals
*Federal Railroad Administration Railroad Crossing Inventory
Rail/ Highway Safety Engineer
Office of Traffic Safety
Planning, Asset Management, and R&D Division
Indiana Department of Transportation