Cable Barrier Issues

Questions about highway cable barriers were once again raised after a fatal crash occurred July 22nd in Fife. Sunday’s accident was the first fatal crash involving the cable median barrier to happen outside of the Marysville area. A review of the cable barriers, ordered by Gov. Christine Gregoire, concluded that the barriers have performed excellently except for a 10 mile stretch of I-5 in Marysville where eight people have died in cable related accidents. According to the report, median crossover collisions account for about one fifth of disabling injuries and fatalities on state highways. State officials say that cable barriers work about 95 percent of the time and are built to handle impacts of up to 62 mph.

The fatal accident Sunday morning closed northbound I-5 for several hours and backed up traffic for six miles. The deceased driver, 21, was driving southbound at speeds estimated to 100 mph when his car drifted to the left shoulder. He hit the cable barriers, proceeded through the median and struck several cars heading northbound. According to state trooper Cliff Pratt, it appeared that at least one of the cables was severed during the crash.

The Department of Transportation, who is in charge of the cable barriers, will investigate the crash and how it occurred. Paula Hammond, the incoming interim transportation secretary, visited the accident scene and said she was not aware that any cables were cut during the accident, but seven posts were wiped out.

Prior to Sunday’s crash, there had not been a fatal accident at that specific the stretch of I-5 since the cable barrier’s instillation in 2001. Before the instillation of the barrier, there had been 3 fatalities in the same stretch of highway within 5 years. There have been around 135 miles of cable barriers installed in Washington and an additional 50 miles will be completed by 2008.

The problem spot for cable barriers in Washington seems to be on a 10 mile stretch of I-5 in Marysville. Since 2000, eight people have died in crossover crashes. Seven of those deaths involved vehicles traveling through the cable barriers. Family members for several of the victims are suing Washington State saying that the cable barriers were a contributing factor in the collisions.

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