ODOT: Median cable barriers are safer and more cost-effective

A tractor-trailer is stopped from crossing over the median by a cable barrier. (Courtesy: ODOT)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Two recently deadly crashes in the same section of Interstate 270 on the city's south side raised some questions about median cable barriers and how effective they are.

10TV took those questions to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Cable barriers were approved for use in Ohio back in 2003. Since then, they have been installed all across the state, now making totally nearly 400 miles.

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They are designed to prevent or mitigate cross-median crashes in high-risk and high-traffic areas.

ODOT Press Secretary Matt Bruning says they are not only more cost-effective, but they also are safer.

"Cable barrier, because it flexes with the vehicle, it leads to fewer injuries," Bruning said. "And obviously, at the end of the day, property damage crashes are one thing, but when people walk away from crashes, that's what we want to see. We don't want to see any crashes, but if we have a crash where everybody walks away, that would be our preference."

Bruning says, when ODOT examined the crash history of locations with a mixture of barrier types, it found about 17 percent of cable barrier crashes result in injuries compared to 38 percent of concrete and 34 percent of guardrail crashes.

To go one step further, when analyzing locations where there are cable barriers, ODOT found they reduced cross-median crashes by 91 percent, fatalities by 83 percent, and serious injuries by 98 percent.

The posts for those cable barriers are encased in a steel sleeve, embedded in concrete. They are supposed to cushion and catch a vehicle to lessen the impact, which may force the posts to actually pop out of the ground at some times. Again, Bruning says, that is by design.

He also points out that the cable barriers are most effective in crashes involving passenger vehicles or larger vehicles that hit at an angle that is not too severe. For instance, in last week's crash on I-270 involving a dump truck, the size of the truck and the angle at which it hit, led to it plowing right through the barriers.

They are simply not designed to withstand that type of impact, Bruning said.

Those barriers are typically installed in barriers that are smaller than 60 wide. The last four projects for ODOT cost an average of $150,000 per mile.