Private Crossings

In 2015, the Washington State Legislature expanded the commission's regulatory jurisdiction to improve safety in response to increasing movements of crude oil trains traveling through the state. ESHB 1449 gave the commission authority to inspect and develop safety standards for private railroad crossings where railroads haul or will haul oil tank cars. The commission developed rules (WAC 480-62-270) which went into effect March 11, 2016, to implement the law.

Railroads must ensure that every private crossing through which any amount of crude oil is transported has:

  • Stop signs: A 30-inch or larger stop sign on each side of the crossing (R1-1 in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices - MUTCD).
  • Emergency Notification System signs: For reporting unsafe conditions. These signs must display the toll-free number of the railroad established to receive reports, an explanation of the purpose of the sign (e.g., "Report Emergency To"), and the USDOT national crossing inventory number assigned to the crossing. Signs must have legible white text, with a minimum character height of one inch, set on a blue background with a white border. The USDOT number may be black text set on a white, rectangular background. Signs must measure at least 12 inches wide by nine inches high and must be retro-reflective.
  • Private Crossing signs: A rectangular private crossing sign, measuring at least 300 square inches, with the legend "Private Crossing" and the crossbuck symbol, on each side of the crossing.
  • Retro-reflective tape: Sign posts must have retro-reflective tape on the side.

The signs must meet technical requirements for size, design, and placement. The commission's Grade Crossing Protective Fund is a grant program that may be used to provide funding for these signs.

In January 2016, commission railroad inspectors began inspecting private crossings that are located on oil routes throughout the state. After completing an investigation, our staff will notify the railroad concerns about restricted sight distance, unfavorable roadway or crossing configurations, or other hazards. Our staff may also notify the landowner, if staff has contact information.

It is the railroad's responsibility to ensure problems are resolved within 120 days of receiving notification from commission staff. The railroad may contact the private property owner if the contract with the railroad gives the property owner some or all the responsibility for maintaining signs or other safety measures. The law does not modify existing agreements between railroad companies and landowners.


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