Grade Crossings - Handbook

Part G

Article 29 - Grade Separation

The GCR states that new at-grade crossings must not be constructed where the railway design speed would be more than 177km/h (110mph); or the road approach of the proposed grade crossing would be a freeway, considering the characteristics set out for rural roads of the Grade Crossing Standards or the characteristics set out for urban roads in table 10-4 of those Standards, as applicable.

For guidance to assist railway companies and road authorities on when to consider grade separation, please consult Transport Canada's Grade Separation Assessment Guidelines.

Article 30 - Left Blank Intentionally

Article 31 - Grade Crossing Safety Assessment

A detailed safety assessment (DSA), formally referred to as Detailed Field Safety Assessment, is a systematic process used to evaluate the safety of a road/railway grade crossing. It is a proactive strategy to:

  • Reduce the risk of a crash at the grade crossing,
  • Minimize the frequency and severity of crashes by ensuring that all measures to eliminate or mitigate to a minimum identified safety problem are fully considered, evaluated, and documented,
  • Consider the safety of all grade crossing users, including trains, pedestrians, and motorized and non-motorized vehicles; and
  • Help assess compliance with the safety technical standards referred to in the Railway Safety Act (RSA), Grade Crossings Regulations (GCR) and included in the Grade Crossings Standards (GCS).

While it is not a regulatory requirement to conduct DSAs at grade crossings, it is recommended, as a best engineering practice, to develop a crossing safety program that incorporates a DSA program.

DSAs are intended to be a relatively inexpensive complement to existing programs for improving safety at grade crossings. They should not be used to replace other strategies, such as identifying high-crash locations or conducting regular grade crossing maintenance inspections.

The purpose of the DSA is to:

  • Review the crossing and its environment.
  • Identify and characterize problems; and
  • Recommend various measures to improve safety in the short, medium, and long terms.

The DSA consists of a review of the site characteristics, the existing traffic control system and the roadway and railway operational characteristics. An assessment of existing and potential hazards is based on this review. If safety deficiencies are identified, countermeasures can be recommended. Appendix I to this document includes a consistent and comprehensive guideline for conducting safety assessments at grade crossings.

Note: The field sheets (or “prompt lists”) included in the Canadian Grade Crossing Detailed Safety Assessment Guide cannot, and should not, replace experience and due diligence by members of the assessment team. Rather, the lists are provided to remind those in the field of the range of issues that should be considered in the review. Those involved in the assessment should have a thorough working knowledge of the key documents that set out design guidelines and standards for grade crossings, including:

  • The Grade Crossings Standards
  • The Grade Crossings Regulations
  • Guideline for Inspecting and Testing Pre-emption of Interconnected Traffic control Signals and Railway Crossing Warning Systems
  • Geometric Design Guide for Canadian Roads
  • The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada

31.1 Recommended Frequency for Conducting Detailed Safety Assessments

  • Within seven years of the coming into force of the GCR (e.g., by November 28th, 2021) and at least every five years after that date, railways and road authorities should jointly conduct a DSA of their public grade crossings.
  • Within seven years of the GCR's coming into force and at least every five years after that date, it is considered good practice for a railway company to conduct a DSA of private grade crossings on its network.

Authorities for a given crossing are responsible for jointly establishing the schedule for the DSAs referred to in articles 31.1(a) and 31.1(b), above.

Notwithstanding subsection 31.1(a), the relevant authorities may agree at the time of a DSA to extend the deadline for the next DSA to more than five years, but not more than 10 years, if they have reason to believe that the safety conditions at, or in the vicinity of, the grade crossing will remain stable. If, however, a responsible authority identifies a developing condition or situation that could affect safety at, or in the vicinity of, the grade crossing, such as rapid development in the area, it must notify the other relevant authorities and request that the next DSA be conducted sooner. Likewise, a DSA may need to be conducted sooner than later if conditions change that could impact safety at the crossing, such as the following:

  • Diversion of traffic from or to the crossing.
  • Volumes and types of vehicle traffic in the area.
  • Volumes of pedestrian traffic, including persons using assistive devices.
  • Operating characteristics of the grade crossing design vehicle.
  • Road design speed on each road approach; including the observed speed.
  • Vertical clearance requirements for any special vehicles using the grade crossing where cantilever structures are used Updated dates to reflect new GCR amendments.
  • Road traffic patterns, including an assessment of the potential for
    • Conflicts between the indications given by road and railway signs and signals, such as between crossing signals and nearby traffic signals; parking signs directing vehicles to park in a manner that would obstruct the view of crossing signs or signals, or an approaching train; or maximum speed limit signs on the road approaches to a crossing where a stop is required.
    • Queuing of vehicles within 2.4 meters of the nearest rail, for example, from road intersections, bus stops, or on congested roadways; and
    • Queuing of vehicles from the grade crossing onto roads intersecting the grade crossing approach road.
  • Road geometry within the minimum safe stopping sight distances (SSDs) of the grade crossing.
  • Physical surroundings, both within and outside of the road and railway rights-of-way, that may distract driver attention from the grade crossing, such as intersections on the road approaches, merging traffic lanes, vehicle parking, bus stops, highway, or commercial information signs or messages.
  • Volumes and types of railway traffic in the area.
  • Railway operations and railway traffic patterns within the area of the required sightlines and the control circuits of the grade crossing warning system.
  • Maximum railway operating speed on each approach.
  • Sightlines, including grade crossing warning system, and signs Updated dates to reflect new GCR amendments.
  • Potential for two or more trains to be operating on, or in the vicinity of, the grade crossing at the same time.
  • Whether the area including the grade crossing meets the requirements for train whistling cessation or might be affected by proposed or granted whistling cessation at a different location.
  • Safety of train crews required to manually protect train movements over the crossing, including an assessment of the requirements of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) and any specific instructions from the railway company regarding to the crossing.
  • Accident history at the grade crossing; and
  • Evidence of repeat incidents of unauthorized access to the line of railway.

Note: If the DSA reveals conditions that could eventually affect safety at the grade crossing, the next DSA should be scheduled sooner than what is stipulated in 31.1 (a) and (b).

See Appendix I for a copy of the Canadian Road/Railway Grade Crossing Detailed Safety Assessment Guide.