A microsimulation analysis of highway intersections near highway-railroad grade crossings
The purpose of this thesis was to perform microsimulation analyses on intersections near Highway-Railroad Grade Crossings (HRGCs) to determine if controlling mean train speed and train speed variability would improve safety and reduce delays. This research focused on three specific areas. First, average vehicle delay was examined, and this delay was compared for seven specific train speed distributions, including existing conditions. Furthermore, each distribution was associated with train detectors that were placed at the distance the fastest train could travel during the given warning time. Second, pedestrian cutoffs were investigated. These cutoffs represented an occasion when the pedestrian phases were truncated or shortened due to railroad signal preemption. Finally, vehicle emissions were analyzed using a modal emissions model. A microscopic simulation model of the Wellborn Corridor in College Station, Texas was created using VISSIM. The model was run twenty times in each train speed distribution for each of three train lengths. Average vehicle delay was collected for three intersections, and delays were compared using the Pooled t-test with a 95% confidence interval. Comparisons were made between the distributions, and generally, distributions with higher mean train speeds were associated with lower average delay, and train length was not a significant factor. Unfortunately, pedestrian cutoffs were not specifically controlled in this project; therefore, no statistical conclusions can be made with respect to the pedestrian cutoff problem. However, example cases were devised to demonstrate how these cutoffs could be avoided. In addition, vehicle emissions were examined using the vehicle data from VISSIM as inputs for CMEM (Comprehensive Modal Emissions Model). For individual vehicles, as power (defined as the product of velocity and acceleration) increased, emissions increased. When comparing emissions from different train speed distributions, few significant differences were found. However, a scenario with no train was tested, and it was shown to have significantly higher emissions than three of the distributions with trains. Ultimately, this thesis shows that average vehicle delay and vehicle emissions could be lowered by specific train speed distributions. Also, work could be done to investigate the pedestrian cutoff problem.