Traffic

DOT to Review Median Guardrail Policy

Posted June 5, 2007 5:19 p.m. EDT
Updated June 6, 2007 8:12 a.m. EDT

— State Department of Transportation engineers said Tuesday are reviewing a policy that limits the use of cable fences to serve as guardrails in highway medians.

The move comes a day after a Cary man was killed on Interstate 40 when an SUV went out of control and crossed a grassy median near the Wade Avenue exit and slammed into the man's car.

Because cross-median crashes are some of the deadliest collisions, North Carolina kicked off a statewide effort to install median cables on as many miles of highway as possible.

There are more than 2,400 miles of cable guardrails in North Carolina. A DOT study estimates the cables prevented 95 crashes and saved 177 lives between 1999 and the end of last year.

But in most cases, the DOT doesn't put guardrails on medians that are wider than 70 feet across. The median where Monday's wreck occurred is about 85 feet wide.

"Our policy is 70 feet or less, and that's much tougher standard than most states are doing and it has saved a lot of lives," DOT Division Engineer Wally Bowman said. "You have to set a baseline where you start at, and that was the baseline we set years ago -- 70 feet."

DOT officials said a wide median like the one where Monday's wreck occurred should be wide enough to slow down a car before it gets to the other side. They also said cable guardrails aren't perfect, noting a vehicle that rolls or flips could fly right over the barrier.

"I'm not here to say that, because of this one accident, we're going to go back and change our policy. But we will look at it, look at the median width and see if there's anything else out there that could've caused the accident to occur," Bowman said.

There are proposals to widen I-40 near the Wade Avenue exit. If lanes are added, he said median guardrails would be added.