"What's up with that?' - Highway cable barriers

One of our ABC 33/40 Facebook friends posted this question to{} our "What's up with that!?" section. Hank Edwards wrote concerning the protection barriers on I-20/59 from Bessemer to Birmingham made of cable. He said, "Since applying the wire median barriers, are the barriers of wire causing less injuries or death or is it just a cost saving feature that is being tried out?"{}

Focus@4's Edward Burch learned the cable barriers are considered the most versatile and forgiving barrier that's out on the highways, and that those barriers minimize the force on a vehicle and those inside upon impact.

Several sections along that stretch of interstate show signs of past collisions.

The cables have been restored, but bent rails remain. Robin Rhoden, AL-DOT 5th division maintenance engineer says the barriers did its job. "The main purpose is to reduce the possibility for head on collisions," says Rhoden."If a vehicle gets out of control, or leaves the roadway, they absorb the energy and they stretch, and deflect the vehicle back in a safe direction." Dee Rowe, an AL-DOT engineer says, the reduced impact cuts down on the number of injuries and fatalities to drivers and passengers. "Because the guard rail is stretching, it's not as abrupt of an impact," says Rowe.The concrete barriers, otherwise known as Jersey barriers, are typically found on metropolitan & high volume highways.

The repairs can cost less but the impact can be much greater."The design of the (Jersey) barrier is to redirect the vehicle. But if (the driver) is going fast enough, he is going to get a more sustained, traumatic impact than with the cable," Rowe explains.Rowe says the cost to install the cable barriers, runs about $20 per foot.

Like guardrails, the cable barriers typically require maintenance and repair immediately after a crash.

Ultimately, "They are safer and it just so happens that they're less expensive also. Their effectiveness is good when it's the proper application," says Rowe.

As for the bent rails remaining to be fixed on I-20/59, contractors are responsible for fixing the barriers in the Bessemer area. AL-DOT says they are talking with those contractors and that they should have all the barriers fully repaired by the end of April.

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