Visual Obstructions / Vegetation

Motorists can’t see down the tracks for oncoming trains because of trees, vegetation, buildings, parked trains, etc., blocking view down the tracks.

Ohio Revised Code 4955.36-Vegetation (under the enforcement and jurisdiction of the PUCO) states railroads are responsible for clearing 600 ft. down the track (both directions) on their entire right-of-way (land they own on both sides of the track) at all public railroad crossings.

Federal Law:  There are no federal mandates regarding clear lines of sight for motorist's safety at public railroad grade crossings leaving most states without laws addressing clear lines of sight.  However, there are federal guidelines (Title 49, Chapter II, Part 213.321 Vegetation) regarding vegetation on railroad property which is on or immediately adjacent to roadbed shall be controlled so that it does not:  Become a fire hazard to track-carrying structures; obstruct visibility of railroad signs and signals; along the right of way, and at highway rail-crossings; interfere with railroad employees performing normal trackside duties; prevent proper functioning of signal and communication lines; or prevent railroad employees from visually inspecting moving equipment from their normal duty stations.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook, FHWA-TS-214, August 1978, p. 118, the Federal Highway Administration stated: The primary requirement for the geometric design of a grade crossing is that it provide adequate sight distance for the motor vehicle operator to make an appropriate decision as to whether to stop or proceed.  It also states: In the event that it is impossible to achieve the minimum sight triangle, careful consideration should be given to the installation of active warning devices.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) have provided a table calculating required sight distance based on the speed of both the motor vehicle and approaching trains, but these recommendations have not been adopted into federal law.

Click to open: Required Design Sight Distances for Combination of Highway and Train Vehicle Speeds


"Bad Crossings Kill Good Drivers"®