Friday, January 26, 2018

Highway safety upgrades that we hope you never use

By Andrea E. Petrich

Hopefully you’ve never personally learned the value of our highway barriers. But if you have found yourself in a collision and hit a barrier, you know it can often be the difference in minimizing a crash by keeping a vehicle out of oncoming traffic or careening off the road into danger.

Whether concrete, metal or cable, highway barriers increase safety on the roadways and are an important part of our infrastructure. Because of that, starting in February we’ll be upgrading cable barrier in 12 locations along six different highways, bringing safety improvements to almost 40 miles of roadway.

Our maintenance crews repair a cable barrier post along I-82 in Yakima County just north of SR 24.
Starting in February some stretches of highway between King and Whatcom counties
will have median cable barrier upgraded to 4-strand, like this.

We’re not just replacing old cable barrier with more of the same, though. Instead, contractors from Petersen Brothers will change the current 3-rope cable barriers to a 4-rope system. This gives the new barriers a lower bottom cable and a higher top cable, decreasing the potential of a vehicle going under or over the barrier. We’ll also be adding posts, fittings and hardware and removing worn-out pieces.

This project, encompassing I-5 in northern Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, SR 18 in the Kent and Renton areas, SR 20 near Burlington, SR 99 in Tukwila/Seattle, SR 522 in Woodinville and SR 539 near Lynden, will happen between February and June. While work will take place in the medians, there will be the need for some lane closures.

In 2018 we will upgrade sections of cable barrier in four counties, including this stretch of SR 20 in Skagit County. The upgrades will add a fourth cable and lower the bottom cable to help reduce drivers from crossing through the median into oncoming traffic.

So, where specifically?
The improvements will stretch from Blaine all the way to Kent, with crews completing one spot and moving on to the next, starting on SR 18 from Kent to Covington. But where exactly?

  • Peace Portal Drive exit to near D Street in Blaine.
  • Main Street interchange to the SR 548/Grandview exit in Ferndale.
  • Near the SR 542/Sunset Drive exit to near West Bakerview Road in Bellingham.
  • Happy Valley near Fairhaven Parkway to the South Samish Way overpass in Bellingham.
  • Just before SR 11 to near the State Patrol office in Bow/Burlington.
  • 300th St. NW to near Anderson Road in Stanwood/Mount Vernon.
SR 18
  • East of SE 304th St. in Kent to near SR 516 in Covington.
  • West of SE 188th St. near Renton to Issaquah-Hobart Road SE.
SR 20
  • SR 536/Memorial Highway to near Pulver Road near Burlington.
SR 99
  • North of Tukwila International Blvd. to just south of S. Holden St. in Seattle.

SR 522
  • West of I-405 in Bothell to near NE 195th St. in Woodinville.
SR 539
  • Just north of Ten Mile Road on Guide Meridian to near the Nooksack River south of Lynden.
This project will upgrade all stretches of median 3-rope barrier currently installed in these four counties. When selecting locations for median guardrail we look at a variety of things, including crash history, traffic speed, geography of the road, objects like overpass foundations, signposts and trees, as well as the cost of installation and maintenance.

Specifics about work hours and dates are still being finalized but will be available on our website. Please be sure to be safe and focused around work zones, for your safety as well as the workers. While the cable barriers are designed to keep you safe, we would prefer that you never have to use them.


Geoff in Bellevue said...

can we see a picture or diagram of the two systems side by side?

WSDOT said...

Hey, Geoff –
Thanks for reading. We’ve asked our colleague working with the contractor crew to take some comparison shots. They’re working at night right now so we’ll share something as soon as we’re able to get a couple of well-lit shots.

Joni Kirk said...

Why not on Highway two that has crashes all the time had on between Snohomish and Stevens Pass?

Amy Ward said...

I drive past the barriers on Hwy 18 every day. Are they going to make them all upright and even when they are finished? Right now, they tip in all directions and do not look very stable at all.

WSDOT said...

Hello, Amy –
Thanks for reaching out.
Crews have finished the section between Kent and Covington and are still working on the section between Southeast 188th Street and Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast and yes, once they are done there the tension on the new system will look like the 3-rope did. Crews are still working to dig out some of the old bases on this stretch before adding in the rest of the new ones and tightening up the system.

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