General Information - Dig Safe, Railroad Crossings, and Workzone Safety


  • Dig Safe
  • Railroad Crossings
  • Workzone Safety
  • Maine law regarding Dig Safe
  • Dig Safe website: This site has all the information you need to properly make “excavations” in Maine along with using 8-1-1 or their “quick ticket” system.
  • Grading gravel roads: a “shoulder grading activity” is now well defined and provides a method for this activity to occur without being in direct conflict with the law. Before this change, any grader blade which came closer than 18 inches in depth to the buried utility line was automatically in violation. Now, it is allowable ONLY IF the following occurs:
    • the excavator calls Dig Safe and all other nonmembers, as usual,
    • the excavator contacts each utility operator in the grading area and describes the proposed grading activity and includes the expected depth of grading,
    • within 3 days of this contact, the utility operator determines and notifies the excavator whether the faciltity is deep enough to avoid damage,
    • after this discussion, the excavator can grade the shoulders so as not to disturb the facility.
    • if the facility is not deep enough to allow the grading activity, the “licensing authority” (town or state, as applies), may require the utility operator to lower or otherwise move its facility in accordance with state law or its license, before the shoulder grading occurs.
  • Installing street name signposts
    • Street name signs and posts for E-911: Because the installation of sign posts is considered an "operation in which earth, rock, or other material BELOW the ground is moved or otherwise displaced," municipalities should call DIGSAFE before installing these posts. You can either call them with the locations (e.g., northwest corner of Elm and Maple Street) OR FAX the list to them at 781-721-0047. They will then assign authorization numbers to each site and FAX the list back to you. (Don't forget to premark the sites!)
    • Some people have questioned their liability if installing sign posts by hand or by power equipment. State law specifies that the use of power tools or equipment requires DIGSAFE notification. Digging, pounding, or trenching with hand tools is NOT considered excavation. However, what happens when road crew member Brutus drives a U-channel sign post with a sledgehammer right through a fiber-optic cable? Liable or not? State law says no, but this would probably create some interesting discussion between several attorneys. The bottom line is: make the free phone call, especially if you suspect any possibility of underground facilities.

In today’s transportation world, railroads are becoming increasingly popular for both passengers and goods. Mainers have witnessed the recent introduction of Amtrak service to Portland and more Maine destinations are planned for the future. If your community has a railroad crossing on any of your local roads, you should be aware of who is responsible for railroad maintenance. A properly maintained railroad crossing can help prevent accidents from occurring and save lives.

When a railroad crosses a municipally-maintained road, three different parties become responsible for maintenance: the railroad company, the state of Maine, and the municipality.

  • The railroad company is responsible for maintenance of the area within 18 inches of each outside rail, regardless of wether the rail is located in an urban compact area or not. The railroad is also responsible for railroad signals and/or crossbuck signs. In some cases, the state of Maine actually owns the rail while others are owned by a railroad company. To find out who owns the track in your community, contact Maine DOT’s Nathan Moulton at 624-3560.
  • Maine’s Department of Transportation, through the Traffic Engineering Division, maintains the advanced warning signage. Maintenance of signs may include removal of obstructions, such as trees or branches. To address this issue, the Legislature created a law in 1989 that states the DOT may order the town to remove obstructions, brush, weeds, and trees for a distance of up to 300 feet on either side of a crossing. Towns may recover 50% of this expense from the state, as explained in 23 MRSA Section(s) 7223 and 7224. MaineDOT’s Nathan Moulton sends out clearing requests to municipalities every two years. This is based upon reports by the railroad company or DOT crossing reviews. Within the railroad right of way, the railroad is responsible.
  • Municipalities are responsible for maintaining advanced pavement markings and striping. Pavement markings should follow the standards established in the latest edition of the MUTCD. (Currently, the MUTCD states, “Pavement markings shall not be required at highway-rail grade crossings where the posted or statutory highway speed is less than 40 mph, or in urban areas, if an engineering study indicates that other installed devices provide suitable warning and control.” Sect. 8B16 June 2001.) If towns have not maintained these markings before, they may want to contact a neighboring town about sharing the cost to purchase marking stencils. Towns are also responsible for road maintenance beyond the 18 inches from each outside rail.

Proper maintenance is a year-round responsibility for railroad crossings. Municipalities should include railroad crossings on their annual road striping maintenance plan, along with crosswalks or centerline work. Towns need to be prepared to clear trees and brush when necessary at various crossings, as well. If problems occur with the track itself or the area within the tracks, contact the railroad company immediately. Working together with your railroad company and MaineDOT will help provide safer crossings.

Train speed is an issue in some communities. This is particularly true regarding poor visibility crossings, downtown areas, and school zones. In order for trains to be effective and competitive, train services need to operate at optimum speeds. The MaineDOT currently has the authority to set rail speed limits at railroad crossings. Outside of crossings, the railroad company can run as fast as the track conditions allow.

If a community becomes concerned over speed, it can contact the MaineDOT to discuss the issue. Crossing improvements, such as installing new signals or crossbucks, could help alleviate safety concerns and allow trains to move at optimum speed. Since rail use is an interstate commerce issue, there has been discussion whether federal law will override Maine’s speed setting-authority.

The MaineDOT manages a grade crossing safety improvement program. In this program, funds are spent on signal installation/upgrades for improvements to at-grade crossings. Funding for this program is made available every two years. There are about 620 active grade crossings in Maine, so competition is pretty fierce. (Approximately 18 projects get funded every two years.) If you would like more information on this, please contact Nathan Moulton at 624-3560.



  • The MUTCD ( ) (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) serves as the national, state, and local standard for traffic control during all operations on public streets and highways in the United States. These minimum standards apply to all public roads regardless of type, class, or agency having jurisdiction over them. It's important that the driving public sees and reacts to similar traffic control devices whether there is a local or state road crew, a utility truck, a contractor's crew, or emergency vehicles, etc. working in a public way. 
  • Part 6 of the MUTCD is entitled "Temporary Traffic Control." It provides the minimum standards for work zones relative to the "parts" of a work zone, pedestrian and worker safety, flagger control, traffic control devices and their applications, and traffic control plans. Online copy can be found at Soft cover copies can be purchased through ATSSA (American Traffic Safety Services Association).
  • In addition, the MaineDOT's Local Roads Center has a softcover version of Part 1, 5 and 6 for $10.00 and a handy pocket-sized abridged version of the MUTCD Part 6 for $3.00. To order a copy email us or call us at 1-800-498-9133 (Maine only).