State highway guardrails could cost drivers safety and money

A company responsible for making guardrail cap for highways, including the ones in our area, faces multiple wrongful death and injury lawsuits for changing the cap’s design.

States stretching from Texas to Virginia say the new cap design by trinity industries doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

When a car or truck crashes into a guardrail, the metal is supposed to curl away from the crash, helping to protect the car and their passenger from further impact and injury. Critics say instead the guardrails don’t crumple as they should and cut into the car, and the results can be deadly.

The trouble over the guard rail caps could now cost drivers in Kentucky with a possible plan to replace the guardrails.

Federal officials are ordering another round of tests on the guardrails’ safety. Until the formal test results are released, Kentucky has banned further installation of the guardrails.

Pending these results, Kentucky will make the expensive decision whether to replace all of the guardrails and caps in the state.

When a car collides with a guardrail end stop, its an expensive repair, “These cost about $2,300-$3,000 a piece, so there’s that expense.”

Transportation Department Spokesperson, Keith Todd says crews are constantly replacing guardrail, “About the time we get one section fixed where someone has hit it there will be another one down the road.”

The issue now is replacing them with the old model since temporarily banning the new model, “The end treatment has the same square inches. Its just the newer ET plus models are more of a vertical rectangle where the old ones are a square.”

The square guardrail end-stops are wider than the rectangular ones. While this is fine for highways, its problematic for the narrower, 2 way Kentucky roadways.

Todd says if the rails don’t pass the test, it could be a very expensive and time-consuming task, “We’ll have to go back and replace thousands of these.”

Now with the ban, this doesn’t mean the state will go to work to immediately replace all the banned parts. They are considered ‘grandfathered-in’ as they were up to code when they were installed.

If the state were to replace all of the guardrail and caps, they can turn the unused metal in for scrap metal. However, it’s priced significantly lower than what it costs to even repair and install the rails, approximately $380 per ton.

The Federal Highway Administration says the test results will come down by early next year.

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