Rail Transportation Research

Faculty Research

The Rail Transportation Program partners with other university programs and departments, with outside agencies and sources like MDOT and USDOT, other universities, and with industry partnerships like CN and Union Pacific.

Student Projects

Student projects are an important component of our programming.

Senior Design as well as student Enterprise projects engage students in real life situations, providing experiences through hands-on education and industry sponsored projects.

Sponsoring real-life student projects and/or faculty research provided visibility, networking, and positive outcomes for industry partners. We thank our project sponsors and partners. Interested in participating? Contact us to find out how!

Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Sponsored Program

Railroad Track Maintenance Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) Development Framework Data Tools and Implications for Multi-Modal Transport Decisions

Principal Investigator: Pasi Lautala
Co-PI: Robert Handler
Co-PI: Amlan Mukherjee
College/School: College of Engineering
Department(s): Civil Environmental and Geospatial Engineering
Sponsor: US Dept of Transportation
Center/Institute: Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI)
Research Focus: Energy & Sustainability, Transportation & Infrastructure


Workshop on Infrastructure Life-Cycle Carbon Emissions Assessment for Railway Track Maintenance: Supporting Sustainable Decision-Making for Railway and Transportation Infrastructure

This workshop concentrates on establishing strong industry dialog and participation in a project funded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The recently started project will develop a framework for Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of emissions from railroad track and infrastructure maintenance and construction.

This workshop is supported by the FRA and hosted by Michigan Technological University and the University of Texas at Austin, in conjunction with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC).

Expanding Summer Youth Programs in Rail through Virtual Learning and a National Campus Network

Principal Investigator: Pasi Lautala
Co-PI: David Nelson
College/School: College of Engineering
Department(s): Civil Environmental and Geospatial Engineering
Sponsor: US Dept of Transportation
Center/Institute: Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI)

Rail-Crossing Violation Warning (RCVW) System

RCVW is a technology demonstration from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Battelle, and Michigan Technological University.

Illustration of a dangerous situation and its signage, with more description in the caption.
The RCVW system shows communication between a train and a driver, with examples of safety signage.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing (HRGC) incidents continue to represent a significant safety concern for the transportation industry. Drivers commit judgment errors and are susceptible to distraction. Recently, connected vehicle (CV) technologies have matured and represent a potentially viable, widely applicable, and readily implementable approach to warning highway drivers of a predicted collision with an approaching train. The Rail Crossing Violation Warning (RCVW) system aspires to leverage CV technologies to realize safety improvements at highway-rail grade crossings.

The RCVW system provides drivers with information about potential conflicts at railroad grade crossings. Drivers can be warned about activated crossing warnings using displays and audio signals in the vehicle.

Example warnings:


The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is committed to the research and development of innovative technologies intended on making travel safer. Specifically, the connected vehicle (CV) initiative seeks to create applications and prototypes that rely on the exchange of safety-critical information from vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and between vehicle and infrastructure (V2I) using Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) radios. Beginning in 2015, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and its subcontractors have been effective in producing a CV prototype called the Rail-Crossing Violation Warning (RCVW), which is designed to notify approaching drivers of an active rail crossing and warn them of a potential collision. This project demonstrates the capabilities of the RCVW system in a live demonstration.