Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Safety of Grade-Level Railroad Crossings

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has two commuter railroads: the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), running between New York City and Long Island , and Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North), running between New York City and upstate New York and Connecticut . The LIRR has 293 grade-level crossings (where railroad tracks intersect a highway on the same level as the highway); Metro-North has 154. We examined the actions taken by the MTA regarding safety at LIRR and Metro-North grade-level crossings. We found that for both the LIRR and Metro-North, the warning devices (gates, flashing lights) at selected crossings performed in accordance with certain operating standards and generally were inspected at the required intervals. However, the LIRR and Metro-North need to improve public awareness of safety requirements at grade-level crossings. We found that pedestrians and motorists, including school bus and truck operators, often failed to heed warning devices and often committed other safety violations at the crossings.

We also found that Metro-North did not follow proper procedures when it removed crossing gates and deactivated the warning devices at certain crossings on the little-used Beacon line; the LIRR had not posted safety signs at any of its 293 crossings; improvements were needed in both railroads' administration of accident investigations; and the LIRR had eliminated only one of the 23 hazardous grade-level crossings identified 12 years earlier in a strategic plan.

For a complete copy of Report 2004-S-63 click here.
For a copy of the 90-day response click here.
For a copy of the associated follow-up report click here.