Workers installing new and safer guardrails on I-244 and US Highway 75

Tuesday, February 1st 2005, 10:13 am
By: News On 6

Contractors for the state of Oklahoma finished working on another section of guardrail Tuesday on Tulsa's Inner Dispersal Loop. A lot of drivers pass by the work without knowing why it's happening, so News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan went to find out.

It's cold and dangerous work for contractors working alongside the highway, but the job they're doing will make the roads a little safer. The state is replacing guardrails along several major roads in Tulsa. ODOT division engineer Gary Evans: "It's a complete upgrade of the guardrail for those sections of roadway." Evans says the new rails are much safer than the old ones. “They did have a possibility of rolling a car."

The old rails flared up from the ground. That could start a roll over crash. The new rails have a blunt end, that on the surface wouldn't appear much safer - but it is. Guardrails are designed to redirect a car, but not stop it cold. That figures into the design of the new guardrails. The end cap is designed to push onto the guardrail and roll it out, so when a car hits it, it absorbs some of the energy of the car crash.

The new rails are stronger - because of their shape and the posts they're mounted on. The bridge connector makes it much less likely a car would hit the concrete end of a bridge wall. The nylon blocks behind the rail absorb energy when a car it. And plenty of drivers hit the rail.

It's left the old ones in such poor shape it's cheaper to replace them than make repairs. Over the last year, new guardrails were installed on I-244, from Catoosa to downtown Tulsa.

The work continues on the Inner Dispersal Loop and now contractors are moving north on US Highway 75, up to state Highway 11.

The new rails in Tulsa cost $3.8-million, about $14 a foot. They won't prevent accidents - but they should help reduce the severity of crashes - and that can save lives.

The new rails are 6 inches taller than the old, to accommodate bumpers that are on average, about that much taller on newer cars and trucks.