DOT Will Install Barriers at Most Deadly Interstate Medians

Mon July 28, 2003 - West Edition

BIRMINGHAM, AL (AP) Transportation officials will install median barriers for every Alabama interstate location where traffic counts hit 35,000 vehicles per day and deadly crossover accidents have occurred.

By that standard, median barriers would be placed in almost all of the state’s urban areas.

The Alabama Department of Transportation program results largely from the high number of median crossover wrecks on Interstate 20 in St. Clair County and the effectiveness of median barriers on I-20/59 between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.

"It will be a proactive program to install some kind of median crossover protection where studies show there are 35,000 vehicles traveling the interstate daily and according to accident data," said Deputy DOT Director Don Vaughn in Montgomery.

The state began constructing 10 mi. (15.1 km) of concrete median barriers on I-20/59 south in 2000 after 11 people had been killed in crossover wrecks within three years. All the deaths occurredwithin four miles of mile marker 100 near the Tuscaloosa County line.

Since the barriers were installed, there have been no crossover deaths on that section, state troopers say.

Installing the barriers could take years to complete, with federal safety funds could be used to pay for construction, Vaughn told The Birmingham News for a story Friday.

For some reason, he said, crossover wrecks begin when the traffic count reaches 35,000 vehicles daily.

"I don’t know if the vehicles just start to bump into each other or what. It’s a phenomenon we have recognized and we are starting to address the problem, " Vaughn said.

Officials have begun identifying the interstate sites statewide.

"And we plan to install some kind of median crossover protection in each one of these sites,’" Vaughn said.

Estimates of the cost to build the barriers will not be available until the interstate segments are defined, highway officials said.

There are 905 miles of interstate across Alabama, but not all of them have the 35,000-vehicle average daily traffic count, the history of crossover accidents or medians that would need barriers.

For instance, parts of the I-65 median in Escambia County are extremely wide and covered with thickets of trees so no median barrier would be necessary.

The barriers may not be as elaborate as the concrete ones going up on I-20/59 south. They could either be cable or double-guardrail, which Vaughn said will be built on I-20 near Riverside for five miles.

Earlier this week, highway officials said the I-20 barrier might be cable. But because of the terrain, the guard rail will be more effective, Vaughn said.