University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Interdisciplinary Professional Programs

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety See upcoming dates

Course Overview

Reducing train-vehicle collisions and pedestrian deaths from train accidents is a goal every railroad engineer should try to reach. In this course, you will learn the basic principles of highway-rail crossing safety and how to apply them to new and existing projects to avoid accidents.

Who Should Attend?

  • Railroad and signal engineers 
  • Railroad crossing safety and public projects managers 
  • Railroad safety personnel 
  • Transportation and safety engineers 
  • Local/state/federal and public works personnel 
  • Consulting engineers involved in the design, construction, and operation of highways and highway traffic operations in close proximity to rail lines

Additional Information

The online version of the course is offered in four 4-hour modules in a live online format. See the schedule for specific times. Details on how to access the course will be sent with registration confirmation. No software is required to participate in the online course. The course is accessed via your internet browser. 

Course Outline

Introduction The Challenge: Reduce Vehicle-Train Collisions and Pedestrian Deaths

  • History and characterization of rail crossing safety
  • Public funding
  • Current progress

Grade Crossing Traffic Control Devices

  • Types of devices
  • Selection criteria
  • Costs and maintenance
  • Guidelines: FHWA, NCHRP, NCUTCD, and MUTCD

Train Detection and Warning Systems

  • Regulations, standards, NTSB recommendations, and industry practices
  • Basic train detection types
  • Technical advances
  • Issues and complications (at multiple crossings and/or railroad control points)
  • Deciding system types and warning device placements (cantilevers, gates, lengths and placements, additional lights, control cabinets, etc.)

Interconnection of Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Warning Systems and Highway

Traffic Signals

  • Reference documents, guidance and standards, and definitions
  • Railway warning times and APT
  • Preempt traps
  • Interconnect circuits

Grade Separations and Grade Crossing Surfaces

  • When to grade separate
  • Grade separation design considerations
  • Grade crossing design
  • Crossing surface material selection
  • Crossing construction, reconstruction, and maintenance

Crossing Closures and Consolidation Strategies

  • Evaluation and identification of projects
  • Long-range planning
  • Financial incentives
  • Public relations
  • Case study US DOT

National Grade Crossing Inventory Program

  • Role, purpose, and use
  • Mandatory requirements of the

Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008

  • Updating crossing data in the national file
  • Reconciling railroad and state data files with the national file
  • Identifying the riskiest crossings using the

Accident Prediction Model

The Program Roles of State and Local Governments and Railroads

  • Available federal programs and state programs
  • How programs are administered and carried out
  • Project selection criteria
  • Engineering and estimating
  • Contract process

Public Education and Outreach Programs

  • Operation Lifesaver: rail safety education
  • Statistics and results
  • Educational resources
  • Training programs

Quiet Zones

  • FRA regulations
  • Vehicle and pedestrian issues
  • Mitigations and supplementary safety measures
  • Costs, experiences, and future measures to reduce noise and improve safety


"This course was very well presented…Excellent course, with great speakers, wonderful presentations, a good job."
—Brian Mueller, Systems Signal Engineer Regional Transportation District, Denver, Colorado

"My overall rating of the course is…'Excellent;' and will be useful in my job."
—Johnathan Bragg, Grand Lodge Representative Brotherhood of RR Signalman

"A very good course and met my expectations."
—Douglas Tracy, Signal Engineer CONRAIL


Samuel Buchanan

Samuel Buchanan is a Project Manager for Benesch officed out of Fort Worth, TX. Sam graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Electronics, Controls and Communication. His area of expertise is in railroad signal design including a specialty in grade crossing warning systems.

Sam started his professional career in 2012 at the Union Pacific Railroad with the Signal Maintenance department, ultimately becoming the Manager of Signal Maintenance from Fort Worth to Pecos Texas. Sam transitioned to a consultant in 2016 predominantly conducting grade crossing safety assessments before transitioning to Manager of Signal Maintenance Design at CTC, Inc. where he obtained his PE license. 

Following acquisition of his department by Benesch in 2020, Sam continues to be the lead signal design professional in Benesch’s Grade Crossing Engineering office, tasked as the lead on transit related signal design. Sam is recognized as an industry lead with membership on AREMA Committee 36 - Grade Crossing Warning Systems and Committee 37 - Signal Systems, including being appointed Secretary of 37 in the Fall of 2023.

Joanna Bush

Joanna Bush is a Senior Traffic Engineer for Mead & Hunt who specializes in traffic signal preemption at intersections near highway-rail grade crossings.  Joanna has been working in the traffic signal preemption arena since 2005 when she designed her first traffic signals with railroad interconnect. When she joined WisDOT in 2008 as the State Traffic Signal Systems Engineer, she had the opportunity to get further involved in preemption work helping guide design, operation and maintenance policy development and implementation until she returned to the private sector in 2018.  Now that she has returned to the private sector, she is able to take the expertise she gained while working for WisDOT to continue to support them as well as several other local agencies responsible for operating and maintaining traffic signals with railroad preempt.

James Kveton

Jim is a retired member of law enforcement with 35 years of service. He has served in many different capacities from Field Training Officer, Evidence Technician, Sergeant, Commander, Deputy Chief and Chief of Police. The majority of his career was spent with the Elmhurst, Illinois Police Department for 30 years, where he developed a innovative railroad collision reduction program. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Lewis University in Criminal Social Justice. Jim is a 1999 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Staff and Command.

Jim is an Operation Lifesaver presenter and advocate for rail crossing safety. He has implemented a number of programs promoting awareness of crossing safety and the dangers of trespassing on rail property.

Mark Morrison

Mark recently retired after more than 30 years with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and is now working for CBS Squared, an engineering consulting firm with offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Working for WisDOT Mark’s job duties have included designing highways, construction of highways and highway bridges, traffic safety engineering and railroad engineering. The majority of Mark’s career has dealt with safety engineering focusing on highway-railroad grade crossings. Mark served as the State of Wisconsin’s Grade Crossing Safety Engineer and was head of WisDOT’s Railroad Engineering Unit.

He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Mark served on the National Committee for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) technical subcommittee for Part 8 of the MUTCD. Mark was an Operation Lifesaver presenter from 2000 until his retirement in 2016. Mark has made numerous presentations on grade crossing safety at various national, regional and state conferences.

John Sharkey

John Sharkey is a railroad signal and grade crossing warning system consultant residing near Elgin, IL. John has degrees in an Associate of Science in Electronic Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and a Master of Business Administration. 

John is a registered professional engineer and has held senior management positions at the Illinois Central Railroad, Safetran Systems Corporation, CTC Inc., and Alfred Benesch & Co. He holds two patents on application functions of the Safetran Model 4000 Grade Crossing Predictor. John has been involved in all aspects of design, installation, and maintenance of railroad signal systems including accident investigations and litigation.

From 1998 through 2019, John was the Chairman of AREMA Committee 36 – Grade Crossing Warning Systems. He is also a member of National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. In 2019, John was designated AREMA’s Honorary Member of the year.

John has authored and co-authored three articles on “Supervised Interconnection Circuits at Highway-Rail Grade Crossing” for the ITE Journal, TRB Proceedings, and Railroad Track & Structures Magazine. He was a contributing author to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Recommended Practice “Preemption of Traffic Signals at or Near Railroad Grade Crossings” and the FHWA’s Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook.

Tammy Wagner

Tammy has been employed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for 20 years and serves as District Grade Crossing Specialist.  Tammy supervises 3 inspectors and maintains a close working relationship with railroads, state, local and federal agencies to ensure safety compliance and implements safety programs aimed at reducing collisions, injuries, and fatalities on or near railroad property.

Tammy has 34 years of experience in the field of occupational and traffic safety.  She has been involved with Operation Lifesaver for 27 years.  Her passion for railroad safety is recognized as she has served on State Operation Lifesaver Boards, trains new volunteers, and conducts grade crossing safety and trespass prevention presentations to all age groups.

Prior to joining FRA in 2001, Ms. Wagner worked for the North Dakota Safety Council as the Assistant Director.  Ms. Wagner holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Minot State University. 

Upcoming dates

Take this course when it’s offered next!