Local News

Protective Median Barriers Can Remain Unrepaired For Months

Posted June 23, 2003 7:42 a.m. EDT

— A recent

North Carolina Department of Transportation

study estimates median wires have saved about 70 lives since the state started using them.

Because of the study, the department is spending $100 million to put up more. Some believe the money will be better spent fixing the ones that are already up.

Broken median cable barriers are visible along the Durham Freeway and Interstate 540. Many of the bad spots remain unrepaired for months at a time.

The Department of Transportation says median cables can save lives, preventing cross median, head-on crashes. That the cable cannot save lives if they are scattered on the ground.

WRAL did its own, informal, damage survey damage of guardrail along I-540 from Capital Boulevard to Highway 70. Along the 12-mile stretch, there are 44 places where drivers knocked down the barriers.

"I'm just horrified. I don't drive that often, thank goodness, because it sounds dangerous to me," driver Jewel Deane Suddath said.

"It's a brand-new highway, so it should be safe. Those things should be put right back up," driver Jimmy Saunders said.

In Wake County, it is DOT district engineer Brandon Jones' job to put the barriers back up.

"There's a tremendous workload," Jones said. "The guardrails, cable rails in the median -- they're getting hit every day. It's a tough time trying to keep up with what's been hit."

The problem is only one contractor has state approval to fix the barriers in the seven counties in and around the Triangle. The DOT submits claims once a month. The contractor is allowed 30 days to get guardrails fixed before fines are issued. That means a wrecked barrier can sit in disrepair for 60 days without penalty.

The state says it is following the terms of its contract. Many drivers worry that slow repairs or no repairs could get someone hurt or even killed.

Drivers can report downed median wires or traditional guardrails by calling the DOT at (877) DOT-4-YOU.