Median cable barriers planned for McCracken County stretch of I-24
MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky (KYTC)- The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is planning to add median cable barriers to a section of Interstate 24 in Christian County. Two other sections could be eligible for cable barriers in the next year or two.
The three sections on I-24, from the 3 to 12 mile marker in McCracken County, from the 70 to 85 mile marker and the 86 to 93 mile marker in Christian County had made their way into the top 5 of a cable barrier priority list over the last 3 years. Engineers anticipate moving ahead with barrier installation on the section from the 70 to 85 mile marker in Christian County this year.
The Kentucky Transportation Research Center at the University of Kentucky conducted an extensive review of all Interstate highways across the state. Each one was ranked based on the number of crossover crashes that occurred versus the number that would be expected on highways of similar design and traffic flow.
The research found a total of 46 fatality and injury crashes along the entire 93-mile length of I-24 in Kentucky over the last 10 years. Ten of those were classified as crossovers; 8 head-on and 2 opposite direction side-swipes. A review of the last 3 years showed 5 fatality crossover crashes; 2 in McCracken County and 3 in Christian County.
“First and foremost, the safety of the motoring public is a top priority of our cabinet, and we regard every highway fatality as a tragedy,” KYTC District 2 Chief Engineer Kevin McClearn said. “We continuously work to identify roadways – or sections of roadway – that can be improved for enhanced safety. At the district level, we often perform roadway safety audits in high-crash areas and we carry out an automatic site review of all fatality crash locations. Depending on the issues involved, an audit may result in actions such as additional or improved highway markings, signals and signage, or application of high-friction asphalt – to name a few.”
Median cable barrier costs an average of $115,000 per mile. KYTC has installed 172miles of cable on various controlled-access highways statewide. KYTC has budgeted about $3 million for installation of an additional 25 miles of barrier cable this year.
McClearn noted that locations for barrier installation are identified and given a priority ranking on the basis of crash history. As barriers have been added to highway sections ranked highest over the years, the three sections of Interstate 24 have now made their way to near the top of that list.
Unless other sections of highway around the state have a higher number of crossover crashes for 2013, another two sections of I-24 would be expected to be eligible for barrier installation in the 2014 or 2015 construction season.
“A median cable project for I-24 in Christian County is currently moving through the design phase. We hope to have it ready for bids this summer,” McClearn said. “It involves about 16 miles of I-24 from about midway between the US 68/KY 80 and KY 117 interchanges to about the U.S. 41-Alternate interchange south of Hopkinsville.”
While median cable barrier is effective in preventing or mitigating median crossover crashes involving passenger vehicles, McClearn noted it is not fail-safe and it creates other safety issues.
“For instance, it is not designed to stop trucks,” McClearn said. “It also limits the ability of emergency responders to cross medians, increasing response time to a crash site. For motorists, the barrier can turn what might be a $45 tow charge for a runoff during icy conditions into a $2,000 auto repair and a $2,000 bill, or more, for repairing the cable when they hit it.”
McClearn said some of the preliminary engineering work on the section of I-24 from the 70 to the 85 mile marker will likely start within a few weeks. A construction contract could be bid in June or July, with work starting about a month after the bid date. Construction could take about 2 to 3 months to complete, weather permitting.
McClearn indicated the most effective weapon for highway safety is the driver who observes the speed limit and other traffic laws, refrains from cell phone use and other distractions while behind the wheel, maintains his vehicle and tires properly, is cognizant of weather and road conditions, and is constantly watching out for other traffic.
The Kentucky Department of Highways District 2 office, in Madisonville, is responsible for highways in Caldwell, Webster, Union, Henderson, Hopkins, Christian, Muhlenberg, McLean, Daviess, Hancock and Ohio counties.