What is the RTSD?

The RTSD is a political subdivision that was created by Nebraska legislature in 1971. The cause for this legislation was an alarmingly high rate of fatalities in train-to-vehicle/pedestrian collisions. The RTSD provides funding for railroad safety related projects throughout Lincoln and Lancaster county. The cooperation between the City, County and Railroad keeps administrative costs low and sets aside funding for qualifying projects.

Why do we need an RTSD?

Railroad crossings can be dangerous if they are not properly protected with signals, crossing arms and other materials. Between 1952 and 1968, 55 died, 57 were injured and 115 property damage accidents occurred between trains, cars and pedestrians in the Lincoln area. These shocking statistics indicated the need for railroad crossing protection.

How was the RTSD created?

In 1971, Nebraska Legislature authorized Railroad Transportation Safety Districts (RTSD) for 25 years, and later authority was extended indefinitely. This legislation allowed any Nebraska county with a primary or first class city (pop. 5,000+) to have an RTSD. Individual RTSDs must be formed by a resolution of City Council(s) and County Commissioners. The RTSD Board of Directors consists of 3 City Council Members for each city with a population greater than 5,000, and three County Commissioners. If more than one city is participating in the RTSD, each City Council Member gets one vote and each County Commissioner gets two votes to maintain equal voting between city and county.

Map of Eligible Counties/Cities in Nebraska (565 K) PDF Document

What does the RTSD do?

The initial priority for the RTSD was at-grade crossing improvements

The Lincoln/Lancaster County RTSD identifies crossings in need of work, prioritizes projects and conducts studies to plan future work.

Initially, the main priority was to provide protection for the 90 major crossings in Lincoln. At the time the RTSD was established in 1971, almost all were at grade crossings. Another initial concern was the development of a long term plan for subsequent work. Six corridors were identified for improvements but only four moved forward. For more information about the four corridors, please see the Background Information section.

Railroad crossing improvements at 3rd and "D"

RTSD funded projects are included in the Capital Improvement Program under "Streets and Highways". Unless there is an immediate safety concern, projects are completed consistent with the plan. Projects are contingent upon available funding.

The RTSD has the authority to purchase railroad right-of-way, acquire land (by purchase or eminent domain) for railroad purposes, receive title of property and enter into contracts and agreements. RTSD funded projects must follow strict regulations. In addition to compliance with existing government regulations, each major project must have a positive cost/benefit ratio.

Tax amount for RTSD is about $15/year for a $150,000 home Tax amount for RTSD is about $15/year for a $150,000 home

How is the RTSD Funded?

RTSDs may levy property taxes (through the County Board) to a maximum amount of $.026/$100. Currently the rate is set at $.010/$100. For a $150,000 home, the RTSD tax amount would be about $15.00 per year. During the first 25 years, RTSDs could borrow money and issue general obligation bonds to fund projects, however, this authority was not extended in 1995. Typically, the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County RTSD raises about $5,000,000 in funding through property taxes per year, however, the levy was reduced for 2013, so property tax funding will total about $2,000,000 this year. RTSD funds are exclusively for improvements to railroad/car/pedestrian safety and cannot be appropriated elsewhere.

RTSD Funds Collected Through Levy (1990-2011) $66,186,900
Federal Funds Leveraged Prior to 1990 Over $40.0 Million
1990-2011 Total RTSD Expenditures for Safety
  • Crossings = $2,346,750
  • Quiet Zones = $646,359
  • Capital Projects = $65,083,857
  • Operating Budget = $1,413,583