Audible Warnings at Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
49 USC Sec. 20153 01/26/98
TITLE 49 - TRANSPORTATION
SUBTITLE V - RAIL PROGRAMS
PART A - SAFETY
CHAPTER 201 - GENERAL
SUBCHAPTER II - PARTICULAR ASPECTS OF SAFETY
Sec. 20153. Audible warnings at highway-rail grade crossings
(a) Definitions. - As used in this section -
(1) the term ''highway-rail grade crossing'' includes any
street or highway crossing over a line of railroad at grade;
(2) the term ''locomotive horn'' refers to a train-borne
audible warning device meeting standards specified by the
Secretary of Transportation; and
(3) the term ''supplementary safety measure'' refers to a
safety system or procedure, provided by the appropriate traffic
control authority or law enforcement authority responsible for
safety at the highway-rail grade crossing, that is determined by
the Secretary to be an effective substitute for the locomotive
horn in the prevention of highway-rail casualties. A traffic
control arrangement that prevents careless movement over the
crossing (e.g., as where adequate median barriers prevent
movement around crossing gates extending over the full width of
the lanes in the particular direction of travel), and that
conforms to standards prescribed by the Secretary under this
subsection, shall be deemed to constitute a supplementary safety
measure. The following do not, individually or in combination,
constitute supplementary safety measures within the meaning of
this subsection: standard traffic control devices or arrangements
such as reflectorized crossbucks, stop signs, flashing lights,
flashing lights with gates that do not completely block travel
over the line of railroad, or traffic signals.
(b) Requirement. - The Secretary of Transportation shall
prescribe regulations requiring that a locomotive horn shall be
sounded while each train is approaching and entering upon each
public highway-rail grade crossing.
(c) Exception. - (1) In issuing such regulations, the Secretary
may except from the requirement to sound the locomotive horn any
categories of rail operations or categories of highway-rail grade
crossings (by train speed or other factors specified by regulation)
(A) that the Secretary determines not to present a significant
risk with respect to loss of life or serious personal injury;
(B) for which use of the locomotive horn as a warning measure
is impractical; or
(C) for which, in the judgment of the Secretary, supplementary
safety measures fully compensate for the absence of the warning
provided by the locomotive horn.
(2) In order to provide for safety and the quiet of communities
affected by train operations, the Secretary may specify in such
regulations that any supplementary safety measures must be applied
to all highway-rail grade crossings within a specified distance
along the railroad in order to be excepted from the requirement of
(d) Application for Waiver or Exemption. - Notwithstanding any
other provision of this subchapter, the Secretary may not entertain
an application for waiver or exemption of the regulations issued
under this section unless such application shall have been
submitted jointly by the railroad carrier owning, or controlling
operations over, the crossing and by the appropriate traffic
control authority or law enforcement authority. The Secretary
shall not grant any such application unless, in the judgment of the
Secretary, the application demonstrates that the safety of highway
users will not be diminished.
(e) Development of Supplementary Safety Measures. - (1) In order
to promote the quiet of communities affected by rail operations and
the development of innovative safety measures at highway-rail grade
crossings, the Secretary may, in connection with demonstration of
proposed new supplementary safety measures, order railroad carriers
operating over one or more crossings to cease temporarily the
sounding of locomotive horns at such crossings. Any such measures
shall have been subject to testing and evaluation and deemed
necessary by the Secretary prior to actual use in lieu of the
(2) The Secretary may include in regulations issued under this
subsection special procedures for approval of new supplementary
safety measures meeting the requirements of subsection (c)(1) of
this section following successful demonstration of those measures.
(f) Specific Rules. - The Secretary may, by regulation, provide
that the following crossings over railroad lines shall be subject,
in whole or in part, to the regulations required under this
(1) Private highway-rail grade crossings.
(2) Pedestrian crossings.
(3) Crossings utilized primarily by nonmotorized vehicles and
other special vehicles.
Regulations issued under this subsection shall not apply to any
location where persons are not authorized to cross the railroad.
(g) Issuance. - The Secretary shall issue regulations required by
this section pertaining to categories of highway-rail grade
crossings that in the judgment of the Secretary pose the greatest
safety hazard to rail and highway users not later than 24 months
following November 2, 1994. The Secretary shall issue regulations
pertaining to any other categories of crossings not later than 48
months following November 2, 1994.
(h) Impact of Regulations. - The Secretary shall include in
regulations prescribed under this section a concise statement of
the impact of such regulations with respect to the operation of
section 20106 of this title (national uniformity of regulation).
(i) Regulations. - In issuing regulations under this section, the
(1) shall take into account the interest of communities that -
(A) have in effect restrictions on the sounding of a
locomotive horn at highway-rail grade crossings; or
(B) have not been subject to the routine (as defined by the
Secretary) sounding of a locomotive horn at highway-rail grade
(2) shall work in partnership with affected communities to
provide technical assistance and shall provide a reasonable
amount of time for local communities to install supplementary
safety measures, taking into account local safety initiatives
(such as public awareness initiatives and highway-rail grade
crossing traffic law enforcement programs) subject to such terms
and conditions as the Secretary deems necessary, to protect
public safety; and
(3) may waive (in whole or in part) any requirement of this
section (other than a requirement of this subsection or
subsection (j)) that the Secretary determines is not likely to
contribute significantly to public safety.
(j) Effective Date of Regulations. - Any regulations under this
section shall not take effect before the 365th day following the
date of publication of the final rule.
(Added Pub. L. 103-440, title III, Sec. 302(a), Nov. 2, 1994, 108
Stat. 4626; amended Pub. L. 104-264, title XII, Sec. 1218(a), Oct.
9, 1996, 110 Stat. 3285; Pub. L. 104-287, Sec. 5(51), Oct. 11,
1996, 110 Stat. 3393.)
1996 - Subsec. (g). Pub. L. 104-287 substituted ''November 2,
1994'' for ''the date of enactment of this section'' in two places.
Subsecs. (i), (j). Pub. L. 104-264 added subsecs. (i) and (j).
EFFECTIVE DATE OF 1996 AMENDMENT
Except as otherwise specifically provided, amendment by Pub. L.
104-264 applicable only to fiscal years beginning after Sept. 30,
1996, and not to be construed as affecting funds made available for
a fiscal year ending before Oct. 1, 1996, see section 3 of Pub. L.
104-264, set out as a note under section 106 of this title.