Cable barriers focus of July 6 meeting
August 28, 2008 · Updated 9:43 AM
MARYSVILLE State officials will discuss an engineers report questioning the effectiveness of the cable barriers in the median of Interstate 5 at a public meeting on Friday, July 6.
The strands of wire in the freeway median have been cited by critics in several fatalities over the last several years, as engineers repeatedly defended their value in keeping cars from crossing over into oncoming traffic.
But an independent, out-of-state consultant hired by the state has now questioned their effectiveness in the Marysville area, where a combination of speed and several on-ramps have hindered their effectiveness. A second set of the dime-sized cables, three strong, was installed last year but they failed to stop an SUV from crossing through them last February.
An Everett man was killed when his vehicle tore through one set and hit a tour bus on Feb. 13. Local legislators complained and Governor Christine Gregoire demanded a report from an outside consultant. That report was released earlier this week and will be the topic of the public meeting to be held at Cedarcrest Middle School on Friday, July 6. State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen held a similar forum two years ago after three Marysville people were killed in a Memorial Day crossover crash in 2005; like that meeting, Fridays discussion will feature representatives of the Washington State Patrol and WSDOT.
Consultant Malcolm Ray recommended installing concrete barriers in a 10-mile stretch of the freeway on the northbound side of the median, with a set of cable barriers on the southbound side as well. Southbound vehicles crossed over the median 19 times in the last nine years in that stretch, but nowhere else in the state where 135 miles of identical barriers are used, according to the report.
Haugen is the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee and she vowed to find the money for the fix, writing in a statement that saving lives needs to be our number one priority. If replacing these cable barriers with concrete barriers will save lives, then thats what we need to do.
Rays report listed several factors that led to the Feb. 13 fatality; including the drivers 0.07 blood alcohol level and the height of his SUVs bumper, which may have allowed it to slip over one or more of the cables. The consultant advised more research into how larger vehicles interact with the low-tension barriers and how well they work on slopes, while endorsing their use elsewhere in the state.
WSDOT assistant regional administrator Dave McCormick firmly seconded that notion, saying the cable barriers have saved many lives in other parts of the state. One significant feature of the cables is that they keep errant cars from bouncing back into traffic. Adding a concrete barrier to the southbound set of cables will provide a belt and suspenders approach, McCormick said in a statement, adding that there will be trade-offs.
The meeting will be held Friday, July 6 at Cedarcrest Middle School, 6400 88th Street NE, Marysville, in the cafeteria.
The cable barrier report can be found online at this link: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/cablebarrier/report2007.