Rail Safety & System Condition

The MassDOT Rail Division manages freight, passenger, and seasonal rail lines across the state and maintains its rail assets. In 2019, the Rail Division completed an Asset Management Plan which presents the current state of the Commonwealth’s rail assets and defines what is needed to achieve State of Good Repair across the system.

This section presents information on the condition of the MassDOT-owned rail assets as well as rail safety data. The maps below show rail assets across the Commonwealth.

Rail Ownership

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[Data Table]

Rail Use

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[Data Table]

System Condition

The Rail and Transit Division completed an asset management inventory for its rail assets in 2019, grading the system condition of bridges, culverts, grade crossings, track segments, and signals.

The above chart shows the FY22 condition of MassDOT-owned rail assets as catalogued in the Asset Management Plan. Over 88 percent of assets in each category are rated as marginal or better. Additionally, all signals on MassDOT-owned rail were replaced in the last six years and are rated as in good condition.

Short- and medium-term targets for system condition were set in FY20 and focus on increasing the proportion of assets rated at “good” or “excellent” and decreasing the proportion rated at “poor” and “non-operable”. The targets are listed in the table below. Compared to FY2021, the proportion of assets evaluated at “good” or “excellent” improved for grade crossings (46 percent to 56 percent), track segments (from 35 percent to 62 percent), and bridges (from 23 percent to 24 percent); and remained the same for culverts (12 percent).

Performance Goal Area Measure FY21 Performance FY20 Performance 2022 Target 2024 Target Long-term Target
System Condition Track Segment (% good and excellent condition) 35% 28% 72% 80% 85%
Track Segment (% poor and non-operable) 1% 2% 1% 1% 1%
Bridge (% good and excellent condition) 23% 23% 33% 39% 85%
Bridge (% poor and non-operable) 7% 7% 2% 3% 1%
Culvert (% good and excellent condition) 12% 10% 12% 15% 85%
Culvert (% poor and non-operable) 12% 13% 11% 9% 1%
Grade Crossing (% good and excellent condition) 46% 35% 48% 51% 85%
Grade Crossing (% poor and non-operable) 2% 11% 7% 4% 1%

Additionally, all four asset types need to be re-inspected on an annual basis. In FY22, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most but not all assets were inspected:

Inspections by Asset Type FY21 performance Target
Inspections by Asset Type – Track Segment 93% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Bridge 96% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Culvert 94% 100%
Inspections by Asset Type – Grade Crossing 92% 100%

A derailment occurs when on-track equipment leaves the rail for a reason other than a collision, explosion, highway-rail crossing impact, or similar event. Derailments can be reduced by inspection and maintenance of the rail and rolling stock and by operators following the speed limits. This measure is reported using a 5-year rolling average and normalized per 1,000 miles of rail.

The rate of derailments in Massachusetts remained at t 1.6 per 1,000 miles of rail in FY22. The rolling average decreased from 4.900 in FY21 to 3.646 per 1,000 miles of rail over the 5-year period of FY18 to FY22.

This measure tracks the reported incidents involving hazardous material transported via rail. It is reported using a 5-year rolling average and normalized per 1000 miles of rail.

The rate of crashes with hazardous materials increased in FY21 from 0.0 to 1.609 per 1,000 rail miles. The rolling average decreased, to 1.1796 crashes per 1,000 rail miles.

This measure tracks the total number of reported incidents at highway-rail grade crossings. Highway-rail grade crossing indicates a location where a public highway, road, street, or private roadway, including associated sidewalks and pathways, crosses one or more railroad tracks at grade.

There were 9.651 highway-rail incidents per 1,000 crossings in FY22. This increased the rolling average to 4.163 over the FY18 to FY22 time period.