Cost and delay of railroad timber and concrete crosstie maintenance and replacement

Lovett, A.H., C.T. Dick, C.J. Ruppert, Jr. and C.P.L. Barkan. 2015. Cost and delay of railroad timber and concrete crosstie maintenance and replacement. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2476: 37-44. doi:10.3141/2476-06.


Because railroad crossties are the second most valuable railroad asset, it is critical that they be maintained and managed in a cost-effective manner. The direct expenses of track maintenance cost railroads billions of dollars each year, and additional millions are spent on recovery from track-caused derailments. Train delay costs further increase the consequences of unplanned track outages. Additionally, maintenance activities often result in traffic disruptions and congestion that can propagate throughout the rail network; this effect is a concern especially on higher-density lines that are vulnerable to cascading train delay and longer postincident recovery times. Compared with timber crossties, concrete crossties offer several potential benefits but also have a greater initial cost. Economic analysis can show instances in which extra capital investment in premium components is justified. Such analysis can also aid in planning general tie maintenance by balancing the costs of added maintenance with the associated benefit of reduced accident risk. This paper presents a model for evaluating the life-cycle economics of tie types by comparing concrete and timber crossties. A sensitivity analysis demonstrates how various inputs affect the cost comparison between timber and concrete ties.