Interstate 24 barricades one year later: the pros and cons

The goal of barricades you’ve probably seen along Interstate 24 is to save lives by preventing cars from crossing over the median into oncoming traffic.

Each mile costs about $113,000. Over the past year, there have been 50 reported accidents involving the barricades over the 16-mile stretch of I-24 in McCracken County.

McCracken County Chief Deputy Mike Turnbow has mixed feelings about the barricades. Cross-over crashes often end in death. Turnbow said he thinks if one life is saved with them, they’re worth it.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd can see both sides of the barricade argument. “”It’s kind of a give and take sort of thing,” Todd said. With winter right around the corner, snow and ice are on the way. A small wreck this year could mean a big repair bill. “Before, they might have just slid into the median and had a $50 tow bill. Now they’re also going to have a couple of thousand dollars in damage to their car.”

The barricades aren’t cheap to fix either. They’re about $150 per post, and for the 16-mile stretch in McCracken County, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has already spent more than $50,000.

Turnbow has been patrolling I-24 for 36 years. He says he rarely saw cross-over injuries before the barricades. He recently experienced a situation where the barricades delayed him from doing his job when a driver went the wrong way down the interstate. “She was going to continue going the wrong way, and again I passed her, I looked at her, flashed my lights, but I had to go 3 and a half miles to turn around,” Turnbow said.

He says he knows some areas are more likely to have cross-over injuries than others, and he’ll work around the obstacle these barricades cause. With two cross-over deaths in 2010 and 2011 and none this year, it looks like some improvement has been made.

Keith told me that they will be adding more gaps for emergency personnel, but that’s for new construction. There are no plans to add gaps to existing barricades. The barricades are paid for by federal funds, and the state matches that money.

If someone collides into one of the barricades, the driver’s insurance company will be billed. Todd says they only get about 20 percent of the cost of damages. He says a big problem they face is people hitting the barricades and driving off.

We also learned new barricades are coming from exits 52 through 67 in Lyon and Trigg counties. Todd expects construction to start as soon as March. 

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