Safer Roads For Oklahoma

Tuesday, February 13th 2007, 10:53 am
By: News On 6

The look of Oklahoma roads will soon change. The Department of Transportation has decided to start a major drive to add barriers on highway medians. The News 6’s Emory Bryan reports it wouldn’t be happening without a new, cheaper technology.

ODOT will use steel cables to form the barrier; they’re just as good as concrete, but cost only about a third as much. They've worked well in Oklahoma City, and soon they'll be on the roads here.

The lowly median has become a hot spot for highway safety. It's because a good barrier can prevent head on crashes, the most deadly kind of highway accidents.

"You're multiplying your impact anytime you have two vehicles traveling towards each others, especially in a high speed zone, when you get 45 or 50 miles and 70 miles an hour, the wrecks get pretty horrendous," said Sand Springs Assistant Police Chief Mike Carter.

There have been several deadly accidents along U.S. Highway 97 in Sand Springs, which could have been prevented with a barrier. Last year, four teenagers died in nighttime crash west of Sand Springs. An intoxicated driver crossed the median and hit their car head on. In an effort to curb deadly accidents like that one, new median barriers will be built along U.S.-97.

It’s not just Sand Springs getting new barriers, ODOT has new barriers planned for 240-miles of Oklahoma highways. Many will be cable barriers instead of concrete, it's much cheaper and easier to maintain than guard rails and concrete barriers.

“It proved to us that it does perform,” ODOT Engineer Faria Emamian said.

ODOT started testing the cable barriers on a highway in Oklahoma City.

“And since then we've had more than 400 impacts to the cable, and it prevented the crossovers,” said Emamian.

The concrete barriers are more common in Oklahoma, especially in construction zones. They work, but the cost has kept ODOT from using them more. The new technology and more funding equals more barriers, which the OHP believes will help save lives.

“We’ll have a lot less fatality accidents, so those will help out a lot with less head on conditions," Trooper Brian Warren said.

ODOT says they will address the worst crossover spots in Oklahoma, and as more funding comes along more barriers will go up. Some of the new cable medians will be built into new highway projects, others will be separate projects, but all of the barriers will be in place within the next five years.