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Rail Crossing Design References

The following references assist in the development of rail crossing projects.  Please note that these references may not be entirely consistent with CPUC policy.  CPUC General Orders set the minimum requirements for all crossings in the state.  Contact the CPUC Rail Crossings Engineering Branch for clarification.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)

  • 2014 California MUTCD is the applicable standard for traffic control devices in the state.  This applies in California; it is an amended version of the national MUTCD published by FHWA.
  • Part 8 is specific to Traffic Control for Rail and Light Rail Transit Crossings
  • Other parts:
    • Part 1 includes important general information
    • Part 4 includes information about traffic signals
    • Part 6 includes information about temporary traffic control at rail crossings

FHWA Crossing Handbook

  • FHWA Grade Crossing Handbook (web or PDF) is a core reference regarding rail crossing safety

Caltrans Design Standards

The State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) publishes design requirements for design of roadways under state jurisdiction.  Local roadway authorities often use similar standards.

  • Pedestrian design references
  • Highway Design Manual railroad crossing references
    • Section 309.1, 309.2, 309.5 - Horizontal and Vertical Clearances
    • Section 204.8, 208.9 - Underpasses and Overheads
    • Section 104.3 (frontage); Sections 403.3, 1003.5 (Angle)
  • Caltrans Bridge Design - Section 12 - Railroads

Rail Crossing Engineering Plans

The 2 largest commuter railroads in the state publish excellent plans that include details about ways to design for both vehicular and pedestrian safety at a rail crossings.  Please note that CPUC General Orders set the minimum requirements for all crossings in the state, and all rail crossing construction or modification must be authorized by CPUC.


In 2010 the North Lane Pedestrian Safety Study was completed to assess pedestrian compliance at a crossing in Burlingame, California.  The study evaluates the effectiveness of fencing and channelization in conjunction with automatic gate arms and manual emergency exit swing gates.


Last Modified: 9/28/2015

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