Types of Railroad Crossing Warnings

There are two types of crossings–private and public. Private crossings are not required to have advance signs or other markings and are found on roadways not maintained by public authority.

At public highway-rail crossings, there are two basic types of warnings:

  • Passive signs
  • Active warning signs


Passive Signs

When approaching a public highway-rail crossing, drivers will see the round, yellow advance warning sign. These and pavement markings are generally installed by local or state agencies.

Pavement markings are the same as the advance warning sign, but the letters are painted on the road surface and generally start at the advance warning sign and end with a stop bar near the crossing.

The common crossbuck is the basic warning sign required at all public crossings.

Crossbuck installation and maintenance is the railroad's responsibility.

Sometimes a crossing may also be marked with a stop sign or yield sign.

Active Warning Devices

Installation of flashing lights or flashing lights with gates at a crossing is determined by state authorities.

Which crossings get active warning devices? Individual states decide which crossings warrant active warnings.

Each state has a budget and uses its own formula to prioritize crossing improvements. The following criteria are generally included:

  • Vehicle traffic count at the crossing.
  • Types of vehicles using the crossing.
  • Number of daily trains each way.
  • Collision history at the crossing.