Railroad crossing improvements

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) works with freight and passenger railroads and other businesses on initiatives that preserve rail service, improve the efficiency of railroad operations, and enhance economic development.

A separate state agency, the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads (OCR), enforces regulations related to railway safety and investigates the safety of highway/rail crossings. In partnership with private rail firms, local governments and citizens, OCR oversees a variety of highway/rail crossing issues including:

  • Replacement or enhancement of passive and active warning devices at highway/rail crossings
  • Repair of rough highway/rail crossing surfaces
  • Installation of highway/rail crossings at new locations
  • Alteration of existing highway/rail crossings
  • Closing or consolidating existing highway/rail crossings.

Wisconsin Highway-Railway Grade Crossing State Action Plan (SAP)

WisDOT developed the Wisconsin Highway-Railway Grade Crossing State Action Plan (SAP) in accordance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) State Highway - Rail Grade Crossing Safety Guidance. State highway-rail grade crossing action plans provide an opportunity to conduct a systematic review of state grade crossings from the standpoint of safety risks, prioritizing needs, identifying specific solutions for improving safety, and developing strategic actions to improve crossing safety.

Wisconsin Bicycle and Pedestrian Railroad Crossing State Action Plan (SAP)

Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has started a new planning effort to improve safety at railroad crossings for people walking, biking or rolling. In 2021, WisDOT completed a Safety Action Plan (SAP) for highway grade crossings to improve safety for vehicles crossing railroads. This bicycle and pedestrian SAP will expand on the work of the highway crossing SAP by focusing on improving safety for people outside of personal vehicles.

As part of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Railroad​ SAP, WisDOT will identify factors that make certain railroad crossings potentially more dangerous than others. The study will review the history of railroad injuries and deaths in the state at grade crossings to understand common themes. During the planning process, the study team will also learn from those who interact with grade crossings daily including people who work for railroad companies, county, tribal, and local governments, and interested residents.

​SAP Contact

Kris Sommers
Supervisor - Railroad Engineering and Safety
WisDOT Railroads and Harbors Section
(608) 266-3341

Statutory references:

  • Chapter 86: Miscellaneous highway provisions including highway/railroad grade crossings (86.11, 86.12, 86.13, 86.135)
  • Chapter 189: Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, powers and duties
  • Chapter 190: Railroads, organization and management including powers of railroads and railroad consolidation; sale or lease of property
  • Chapter 191: Railroads, construction, including railroad extensions
  • Chapter 192: Railroads, regulations and liabilities including railroad train crews, and trespassing on railroads
  • Chapter 195: Railroad regulation, including protecting grade crossings, advance warning signs, rail crossing warning devices (195.28), and new and altered rail crossings (195.29)