Railroad Boring Requirements

 When it comes to having to bore under railroad tracks safely, efficiently, and in compliance with strict regulations, selecting the right method can either make or break your project. With decades of specialized experience in trenchless technology – particularly underneath challenging surfaces such as a railroad – we have broken down an overview of the unique requirements, along with the three best methods to utilize in accordance with the project’s considerations

Railroad Boring Requirements  

The main challenge in this scenario is of course to not impact the surface areas above, but the need for strategic planning doesn’t end there. During the process, it is imperative to maintain compliance of railroad protocols, which has the most regulations compared to when boring under other structures such as surface options, streets and waterways.  


To mitigate risks, SSC leverages its advantageous partnerships with third party entities to streamline the process of obtaining railroad approval for design and methodology. Once the project is approved, SSC will work with these same third parties to coordinate having a flagger onsite for the duration of the project to alert crews to rail traffic; an observer to ensure the integrity of the tracks throughout the operation; and one week of track monitoring following bore completion to ensure no settlement of the tracks, which would indicate some type of void or damage. 


For this type of project, it is important to utilize proven and dependable trenchless technology equipment to install utilities and bore areas. The method chosen must allow for working continuously and as fast as possible within Zone A (50-100 ft. span). The following is a breakdown of three applicable options and how they meet various criteria. 


Horizontal Auger Boring Machine (AKA Jack and Bore) 

In the established method of horizontal auger boring, the installation of the steel casing below the railroad tracks could be accomplished in a generally quick time frame, depending on the soil condition.  


With its typical application of placing steel pipes or casing under the geographic feature requiring a casing to be installed to carry water, sewer, and irrigation lines, it can also be the simplest method, accommodating casing of 24 inches and up. The drawback of horizontal auger boring is line and grade control, which can be challenging in some soil conditions and lead to it being less efficient.   


For example, the Hyder Ranch Waterline project took only eight hours to cross Zone A using the auger bore machine. The project involved performing a 150’ auger bore to install 42” steel casing under the railroad tracks that the 30” PVC irrigation line was then run through. 


Guided Boring Machine  

One of the most popular and cost-effective trenchless methods, guided auger boring is a two-step process to accurately install steel casing when auger boring would not work and it can accommodate casing as small as 16 inches. A drawback to using a Guided Boring Machine is that the maximum diameter of casing is limited to 30-36" without requiring additional pull back phases.   


Tunnel Boring Machine  

Utilizing a tunnel boring machine is a well-established method and can meet both the accuracy and efficiency requirements of tunneling under a railroad. The limitations are that it requires a minimum casing size of 48" since the operator is inside the tunnel machine.   


Real-Life Project Examples 

    • A 100-foot long auger bore under a railroad right of way was completed to support a pipeline replacement. This involved installing 100-feet of 24-inch steel casing utilizing a SBU. 
    • Method used: Small Boring Unit 
    • This project comprised of 18 bores ranging from 36” – 60” diameter, 40 – 60’ in length. It also involved installation of casing underneath of active railroad tracks for the construction of new drainage culverts. 
    • Method used: horizontal earth auger boring 
    • This project required an installation of 60’ of 60” steel casing at one location under live railroad track, and 60’ of 72” steel casing at a second location underlive railroad track for construction of two new bridges. 
    • Method used: Horizontal Earth Auger Boring 


When it comes to railroad crossings, it's important to partner with a trusted expert with targeted knowledge and experience in boring underneath railroad tracks. SSC is experienced in performing railroad crossings like the projects mentioned above and has proven its ability to complete projects ahead of schedule and with complete approval by the rail agency overseeing the work. By partnering with SSC, you can ensure your project is done safely, efficiently, and in compliance with strict regulations. 

Arvid Veidmark III
President at SSC Underground

Arvid Veidmark III has 30+ years of hands-on experience designing, estimating, and managing trenchless underground construction projects with SSC Underground for large municipalities, as well as private and public corporations. From serving as Principal Consultant, Owner, and Executive Vice President to his current role as President, Arvid has a future-forward focus on diversifying the company.

He serves as the Director of the Arizona Chapter of National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA); a member of Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) specifications committee and the North American Society of Trenchless Technology (NASTT); and Secretary of the USA Archery Arizona Chapter. His success has been recognized with SSC receiving awards including ASU’s “Spirit of Enterprise Award for Emerging Entrepreneurs,” Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce “Small Business Award,” and Equipment World’s “Contractor of the Year.” Arvid has also earned the Ruben P. Orona Damage Prevention Ambassador award.

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