SIDNEY – Installation of high tension cable barriers along Shelby County highways is almost complete, which the Ohio Department of Transportation expects will save lives.
Jay Winn, a regional sales manager for Gibraltar Cable Barrier Systems in Texas, visited ODOT’s Shelby County garage on Wednesday to speak to approximately 35 people including ODOT employees, police officers, emergency medical technicians and tow truck drivers. His presentation informed the attendees about the barriers, how to repair them and offered safety tips for working around them.
“It’s a little different than most systems that you see out there but very effective,” Winn said of the cable system.
The high tension cable barriers are designed to act like a net when a vehicle hits them. Anchors are embedded into the ground and hold tension on cables that catch vehicles after they strike the system.
Once a vehicle hits the cables, they are designed to detach from the posts and absorb the energy of the vehicle. The vehicles are slowed and redirected to prevent a potential cross median crash.
“When the vehicle is out of control and enters the median, we try to hang that cable on a bumper and have it keep from crossing over into oncoming traffic,” Winn said. “That’s the goal of this, is to keep vehicles from crossing over. We all know that if they meet a vehicle going the other direction at the same speed it’s usually horrific.”
Gibraltar is installing almost 50 miles of cables in Shelby and Auglaize counties in a project that started in 2018. It’s the first time the cable system has been utilized on Shelby County roadways.
Approximately 20 miles of cables are being installed in Shelby County, ODOT Transportation Manager Jeff Marshall said. Some were installed last year and prevented cars from crossing the median during crashes this past winter.
“It will save lives,” Marshall said. “It was up in the winter, for this previous snow and ice season, and it prevented dozens of crossovers, crossover accidents. You’ll never know if you saved a life or not, but usually crossovers are pretty bad.”
After a vehicle hits the barriers, local officials can put tension back on the cables to repair the system without needing assistance from Gibraltar.
“Generally, probably 85 to 95 percent of the time, it’s a very simple and easy repair,” Winn said. “A typical hit, it takes them less time to do the repair than to actually do the paperwork.”
With high tension cables, some crashes do lead to unsafe conditions, Winn said, but proper training can help keep officials safe when they respond.
Other difficulties include the fact that the cables don’t work properly with some vehicles including motorcycles, jacked-up trucks and tractor-trailers with front guards.
While they might not be the best solution all the time, Winn said the cables tend to be less costly than other safety barriers such as concrete and guardrails and are easier to repair.
“There’s a place for concrete and a place for guardrail, and if you have the room in the median this is a good place for a cable barrier,” he said.
Gibraltar, which was founded in 2005, has 27 million linear feet of cable installed across the United States and Canada. The company has 11 employees and bids against four other manufacturers for projects. The high tension cable barriers are the only product it offers.
“If we can keep vehicles on their side of the road and keep them from going across and killing families then that’s a big plus,” Winn said.
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