Rail Safety & System Condition

The MassDOT Rail & Transit Division manages freight, passenger, and seasonal rail lines across the state and maintains its rail assets. Rail & Transit develops and periodically updates its Asset Management Plan. The most recent version was published in 2019. The Division is actively updating the plan, which is expected to be completed in early 2024. Regardless of the formal publication, asset conditions are evaluated and updated annually for internal planning purposes. The results of those assessments are published in the MassDOT Tracker.

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

System Condition

Since the last published Asset Management Plan (2019), the Rail & Transit Division has assessed and evaluated current asset conditions. The conditions of each primary asset type—track segments, bridges, culverts, and grade crossings—are summarized below.

The table shows the FY23 condition of MassDOT-owned rail assets as catalogued in the Asset Management Plan. Nearly 90% of assets in each category are rated as marginal or better.

Short- and medium-term targets for system condition were set in FY20 and focus on increasing the proportion of assets rated at “good and excellent” and decreasing the proportion rated at “poor and non-operable”. The targets are listed in the table below. Overall, asset condition has generally remained stable or improved slightly, except for a small decline among bridges. Compared to FY22, the share of assets evaluated at “good or excellent” increased for track segments by 12 percentage points, culverts by 1 percentage point, and grade crossings by 3 percentage points. For assets evaluated as “poor and non-operable,” the share of track segments decreased by 1 percentage point and grade crossings by 2 percentage points.

Performance Goal Performance Measure FY23 Performance FY22 Performance 2024 Target 2026 Target Long Term Target
System Condition Bridge (Percent Good and Excellent Condition) 21% 24% 39% 45% 85%
System Condition Bridge (Percent Poor and Non-Operable) 8% 7% 3% 2% 1%
System Condition Culvert (Percent Good and Excellent Condition) 13% 12% 15% 26% 85%
System Condition Culvert (Percent Poor and Non-Operable) 12% 12% 9% 7% 1%
System Condition Grade Crossing (Percent Good and Excellent Condition) 59% 56% 51% 65% 85%
System Condition Grade Crossing (Percent Poor and Non-Operable) 1% 3% 4% 2% 1%
System Condition Inspections by Asset Type – Bridge 97% 95% 100% 100% 100%
System Condition Inspections by Asset Type – Culvert 88% 91% 100% 100% 100%
System Condition Inspections by Asset Type – Grade Crossing 100% 95% 100% 100% 100%
System Condition Inspections by Asset Type – Track Segment 100% 93% 100% 100% 100%
System Condition Track Segment (Percent Good and Excellent Condition) 74% 62% 80% 82% 85%
System Condition Track Segment (Percent Poor and Non-Operable) 0% 1% 1% 1% 1%

All asset types are re-inspected on an annual basis. The share of assets inspected in FY23 increased from FY22 for each asset type except culvert. Both track segment and grade crossing inspections met their annual targets (100%), which reflect improvements in productivity as the Division emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Relative to most other Tracker metrics, the following safety metrics assess the performance of both public and private operators across the state. In other words, the rail network is unique in that a large share of its assets and services are owned and operated by private businesses. So, while these indicators are key to understanding the safety of the rail network, they do not necessarily reflect MassDOT assets or operations.

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.

In Massachusetts, the rate of derailment incidents per 1,000 miles of active rail increased slightly from 3.2 in FY22 to 3.7 in FY23. However, the five-year average decreased from 4.0 in FY22* to 3.7 in FY23.

A HAZMAT incident includes any reported incident involving hazardous material transported via rail. This measure is normalized per 1,000 miles of rail and reported with its five-year rolling average.

Per 1,000 miles of active rail, the rate of incidences involving hazardous materials decreased from 1.6 in FY22 to 0.5 in FY23. Additionally, the five-year average decreased from 1.2 to 0.9.

Highway-rail incidents^ refer to any reported incident at highway-rail grade crossings. Highway-rail grade crossings are intersections where a highway crosses a railroad at-grade. To prevent these incidents, warning/control devices, such as bells, flashing lights, and gates, are required at grade crossings just like intersecting roads need stop signs or traffic signals.

There were 15.9 highway-rail incidents per 1,000 at-grade crossings in FY23, which was up from 14.3 in FY22. The five-year average also increased from 9.0 to 10.2. While highway-rail incidents are trending up, the five-year average is consistent with the pre-pandemic average.


*FY22 numbers were recalculated to correct a methodological error and therefore differ from what was reported in Tracker 2022

^Historical numbers were recalculated to a change in the calculation methodology and therefore differ from what was reported in previous editions of Tracker; the rate of incidents in this edition will appear higher than previous reports, but year-over-year trends are consistent