SRF performed a railroad safety review of the BNSF Railway though La Crosse County. The increased volume of crude oil being shipped by rail and the number of derailments throughout the County had raised concerns associated with rail safety and infrastructure. The comprehensive review answered these questions and increased coordination efforts between La Crosse County, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), and BNSF Railway.
- Structural Review: SRF identified highway bridges in La Crosse County that carry vehicular traffic over BNSF Railway facilities. Recent bridge inspection reports were evaluated to document any deficiencies on the bridges, as well as to document their overall condition.
- Crossing Review: The study included a review of at-grade highway-rail crossings within La Crosse County. Specifically, crossings where the BNSF Railway trackage intersects County or State highways were included in the study. Each crossing was reviewed using the following criteria:
- Existing Crossing Characteristics: Crossing geometry, warning devices, signage, pavement, and other features
- Safety: Recent accident history and a review of the estimated crossing risk index (based on the FRA’s Quiet Zone Calculator)
- Sight Distances: Comparing the actual sight distance measured in the field to the minimum values noted in WisDOT’s Facilities Development Manual
- Railway Infrastructure Review: FRA inspection reports for the BNSF Railway within the boundaries of La Crosse County were collected following the submittal of a Freedom of Information Act Request. SRF reviewed these reports to identify any potential safety concerns.
- Rail Mitigation and Feasibility Study: The final step of the study was to coordinate a meeting between La Crosse County and the BNSF Railway to present the results of the study and to identify any potential mitigation measures to be implemented by the County and/or the railroad to maintain or improve the safety of bridges, highway-rail crossings, and other infrastructure.