Four ways Norfolk Southern is working to solve blocked crossings

For nearly 200 years, railroads have played a key role in the development of the United States, connecting cities and towns and helping to establish the nation as an industrial giant.

As railroad tracks spread across the county, communities took root alongside tracks. As the size of those communities grew, public infrastructure, like roadways and walkways, increasingly overlapped with existing railway, creating unique challenges for railroads and residents.

Today, there are more than 120,000 public grade crossings nationwide, presenting more than 120,000 interactions between train, pedestrian, and vehicle traffic. Norfolk Southern is taking the time to work with communities, developing solutions together to address the issue of blocked crossings.

Industry-leading public engagement role

In September 2023, Norfolk Southern created a director public engagement role designed to focus on issues that affect our communities. They are helping to marshal resources to improve infrastructure and engagement.

“Norfolk Southern has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen, and this new role will help deliver on that commitment,” Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said in announcing the role. “We’re focused on collaborating with communities and their leaders on projects that benefit them, while maintaining the critical role of rail to our national economy.”

Grade separation and crossing elimination

Every year, Norfolk Southern partners with communities all over our 22-state network to eliminate redundant crossings and support grade separation projects that replace at-grade crossings and improve safety.

Since 2014, Norfolk Southern has worked with communities and private landowners to close more than 750 at-grade crossings. That includes in the Birmingham, Alabama region, where, in 2023, Norfolk Southern worked to help secure more than $8 million in funding, in addition to a $1.5 million company contribution. That funding helped to develop a series of infrastructure projects that will eliminate about a half-dozen at-grade crossings in favor of grade-separated options, among other community improvements.

"The funding is very important to Trussville in our efforts to provide safer transportation options in and around our city. It will give us the opportunity to provide safer travels to our schools, neighborhoods, and businesses," Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat told local news station ABC 33/40.

Schedule and operations changes

When grade separations are not feasible, Norfolk Southern works with communities to explore whether operations changes may solve crossing issues.

In Buford, Georgia, where train stoppages were causing delays to residents in the community, Norfolk Southern worked with local officials to adjust locations where trains were held for crew changes and other operational processes. As a result of the change, Norfolk Southern has seen a nearly 100-percent drop in blocked crossing complaints in the area.

“I applaud both the City of Buford and Norfolk Southern for their hard work in devising a plan to significantly reduce train-blocked railroad crossings in the community,” said Rep. Andrew Clyde (GA-09) in an official statement regarding the project. “This partnership swiftly executed a solution to alleviate anxieties, streamline operations, and improve living conditions for Buford residents and visitors.”


In those instances where operations changes or grade separations are not possible, Norfolk Southern is supporting local communities that are seeking to leverage technology to advise the public of potential blockages and enable drivers to choose an alternate route.

In 2023, local officials in New Haven, Indiana and North Charleston, South Carolina partnered with Canadian tech company TRAINFO. Together, they installed a network of sensors that detect acceleration and deceleration of oncoming trains all to provide the community with information about possible crossing delays. The sensors, which are placed in the public right of way and out of the way of train traffic, offer a simple way to help mitigate the inconvenience of a blocked crossing without impeding the railroad’s ability to do business.

“Our goal is always to keep our trains running safely, and we make every effort to avoid inconveniencing communities with a stopped train,” said Will Miller, Norfolk Southern Director Public Engagement. “But we know that these issues do happen, and we’re committed to being good neighbors and helping find solutions.”

For more information about resources available to communities, including infrastructure grant opportunities, visit