The need for this report arose from a discussion between CSX Railroad and the City of Philadelphia over safety and liability concerns regarding street-level access to the Schuylkill River Park Trail in Philadelphia.This paper reviews surveys performed by RTC and the U.S. Department of Transportation which found no crashes between trains and trail users on the sixty trails reviewed. In addition, a survey was performed by RTC in 2005 for this paper. Responses were received from 26 trails representing 40 unique grade crossings. Again, it was found that there had been no crashes between trains and trail users.
Although surveys found that no crashes had taken place, issues of liability and safety remain a concern. Although there are numerous techniques for shielding railroads from liability, such as trail insurance, indemnification, and recreational use statutes, limited case law leaves room for uncertainty. Trail user safety is in everyone’s interest. At-grade crossings should be designed by a qualified engineer on a case-by-case basis.