From a cross-cutting study of seven highway-rail intersections using ITS, project cost ranged from $200,000 to $9.5 million depending on system design and functionality.
Made Public Date


San Antonio
United States


Los Angeles
United States


United States


Long Island
New York
United States


United States


United States


United States

Summary Information

The US DOT ITS Joint Program Office evaluated seven projects that implemented ITS at highway-rail crossings. Among the seven projects five functions were tested:

    • Second train warning
    • Four-quadrant gates
    • Intelligent Grade Crossing
    • In-vehicle warning
    • Crossing blockage information for traffic management and traveler information

Second train warning systems were tested in Los Angeles, California, and Baltimore, Maryland. For each project, the same circuitry that detects trains and activates crossing gates, lights and bells also identified when a second train was approaching the crossing shortly after an earlier train had crossed. Upon detection, a signal was sent to activate a message sign indicating a second train was coming. The message was illuminated until the second train had cleared the crossing and the gates, lights, and bells were deactivated.

Project costs were approximately $200,000 per project. Both projects were fully funded by a grant from the Transit Cooperative Research Project program of the Transportation Research Board.

Cost breakdown for the Los Angeles, California project is provided below:

Item Cost
Sign and video equipment
Installation and construction
Design, data collection, and evaluation support
Sign selection, effectiveness surveys, and public education

Cost breakdown for the Baltimore, Maryland project is provided below:



Item Cost
Four closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras, recording equipment, and remote playback station (including installation)
Conduits and cables needed for CCTV system (including installation)
Active matrix high intensity signs, strobe lights, modems mounting hardware and software to control sign
Portable sign programmer
Spare parts kit for signs
Printer and CD-ROM for playback station
Extra data pack for playback station
Cantilever mounting fixtures
Four pedestrian crosswalk signals with bases, masts and side mounting hardware
Scale model of grade crossing for training and presentation purposes
"Second train coming" signs and pedestrian signals (including installation)
Public opinion survey of 10,000 residents
Consultant/engineering services
Transit authority employees' time charged to project
Other expenses

Connecticut DOT in conjunction with Amtrak deployed and tested a four-quadrant gate with automatic train stop system in Groton, Connecticut. The system included installation of four-quadrant gates (rather than two) to prevent vehicles from crossing the tracks as a train approached the crossing, and six inductive loops to detect if the track was obstructed. If the track was blocked the approaching train would be notified via an in-cab signaling system. If the engineer failed to slow the train, then the system would automatically bring the train to a stop. The cost of the system, which included equipment installed at the crossing and the in-cab signaling system, totaled $977,000. The Federal Railroad Administration provided 80% of the funding for the project with the remaining 20% provided by the state. A breakdown of project cost is provided below:






Item Cost
Grant administration




An Intelligent Grade Crossing (IGC) consisting of a set of ITS technologies was deployed in Long Island, New York to increase rail crossing safety and facilitate vehicle traffic flow. The IGC project included the following functions: constant warning time, transient gate control, emergency vehicle preemption, minimization of gate downtimes, dynamic message signs, stalled automobile detection, and queued vehicle detection. Emergency vehicles equipped with the preemption system could signal the IGC via wireless communication. If train speed and distance allowed, the approaching train would be stopped before the crossing; otherwise, the train would proceed through the crossing. Standard inductive loops and advanced video-based sensors were deployed to detect the presence of obstacles on the track and signal the approaching train to stop or slow as much as possible. For trains equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC), a back-up system could also stop or slow the train automatically, if necessary. The comprehensive technologies deployed are reflected in the approximately $9.5 million project cost. Detailed project costs were not collected by project participants. Approximately 80% of project funds were provided through three successive yearly Congressional designations. The remaining funds were provided through in-kind contributions of private sector partners.

Two projects involved deployment of in-vehicle warning systems. In northern Chicago, the Illinois DOT contracted with a team of developers to design and deploy an in-vehicle railroad crossing warning system. When a train was detected by the track circuitry that activates the bells, signals, and gates, a transmitter would also broadcast a signal intended for any vehicle equipped with the special warning system receiver. In-vehicle receivers within a certain distance would activate and operate in one of three modes: audio, visual, or combination audio/visual. The in-vehicle receiver device was installed in 300 vehicles including school buses, emergency vehicles (i.e., fire, police and ambulance), and commercial vehicles that normally traveled through the study area. A total of five railroad crossings were included in the study. The total project cost was $679,000 and was funded primarily under the Congressionally-designated Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee ITS Corridor program. Component cost data was not collected for the project.

The second in-vehicle warning project was deployed in Glencoe, Minnesota. The Minnesota DOT partnered with two vendors to develop an in-vehicle warning system that would provide drivers with two types of information: proximity to an at-grade crossing (crossing warning) and warning of an approaching train (train warning). The system was tested at five railroad crossings and in-vehicle equipment was installed on 30 school buses. The school buses were equipped with a receiver, an in-vehicle display, and a “smart plate” or front license plate equipped with a wireless antenna. The cross buck signs at the five crossings were equipped with a wireless antenna and a crossing transmitter. A crossing warning signal was constantly broadcast from the configured signs. As an equipped school bus approached one of the five crossings, the signal would be received by the school bus in-vehicle system and alert the driver that a railroad crossing was ahead. If a train was approaching, another signal – activated by the existing train detection system – would be transmitted to the configured railroad crossing sign. The signal would be transmitted and received by the school bus “smart plate” alerting the driver via the in-vehicle display of the approaching train. The in-vehicle system presented visual and audible signals to the school bus driver. The total cost of the project was approximately $898,768. The majority of the project cost ($748,768) was funded as in-kind donations by the private sector.

The Advanced Warning for Railroad Delays (AWARD) project was implemented as part of the San Antonio, Texas Metropolitan Model Deployment Initiative (MMDI). Doppler radar and acoustic sensors were deployed upstream and downstream of three railroad crossings to detect the presence, speed, and length of oncoming trains as they approached grade crossings. This data was transmitted to the TransGuide Operations Center where blockage and delay time were calculated. Delay information was disseminated to travelers via existing variable message signs, Internet/kiosks, and in-vehicle displays (emergency vehicles). The project cost was $440,000. Project costs are provided below.



Item Cost
Twelve (12) sensors
Prototype development
33% share of AWARD/kiosk/in-vehicle navigation master computer
20% share of Southwest Research Institute development labor costs
Miscellaneous private sector expenses

* This project cost is slightly higher than the AWARD project cost provided in the Metropolitan Model Deployment Initiative: San Antonio Evaluation Report. The higher cost reflects costs for twice as many train sensors and the inclusion of miscellaneous private sector expenses.

See also:

In-vehicle Signing System for School Busses at Railroad-Highway Grade Crossings: Evaluation Report (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Transportation, August 1998), EDL# 5516.

Advanced Warning for Railroad Delays in San Antonio: Lessons Learned from the Metropolitan Model Deployment Initiative, Prepared for the U.S. DOT, October 2000.



System Cost

Los Angeles, CA: $200,000. Baltimore, MD: $200,000. Groton, CT: $977,000. Long Island, NY: $9.5 million. Chicago, IL: $679,000. Glencoe, MN: $898,768. San Antonio, TX: $440,000.