Railroad Regulation

​Who regulates railroads?

The vast majority of current r​egulations are on a Federal level which include:

United States De​​partment of Transportation (USDOT)​

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)​

  • The FRA is part of the USDOT.

  • The FRA creates and enforces rail safety regulations.

  • All railroad operational procedures are regulated by the FRA which include train speeds, train horn use, track condition, along with much more.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB)​​

  • Railroad rate and service issues

  • Rail restricting transactions such as mergers, rail line sales, new line construction, and rail abandonment

  • Use of rail lines for recreational use

The Office of the Commissioner of Ra​ilroads has primary responsibility for making determinations of the adequacy of warning devices at railroad​ crossings as well as approving the installation of new railroad crossings, alteration of existing crossings, and closing or consolidation of existing crossings.

The agency also has​​ responsibility for the exemption of railroad crossings from requiring certain vehicles to stop; repair of rough crossings; determining adequate railroad fences; exemptions from railroad track clearance laws; drainage/culvert issues near tracks; removal of abandoned spur tracks; and railroad police.  ​

Who regulates the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC)?

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 directed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to promulgate new safety regulations including the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC).

For more information, visit the FRA website here​.

Who regulates private crossings?

​Private crossings do not fall neatly in the federal or state jurisdiction. Private crossings may be governed by legal agreements between private property ​​owners and private railroad companies. Few Federal regulations pertain to the safety, operation, maintenance, or responsibility designations at private highway-rail grade crossings. The Office of the Commissioner of Railroads does not have jurisdiction over matters involving private crossings.

Private crossings can includ​​​e:

  • Farm crossings

  • Industrial plant crossings

  • Residential access crossings

  • Temporary crossings

The USDOT Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Manual on Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) (2003 edition) defines a public roadway as any road or street under the jurisdiction of and maintained by a public agency and open to public travel. If either approach to a crossing does not qualify as a public roadway, then the crossing is typically classified as a private crossing.