Cable Barriers Installed along I-80 to Prevent Crossover Accidents

Over 300 miles long and serving most of Iowa's major communities, I-80 has been part of the Iowa landscape since 1958. The interstate now serves more than twice the traffic volume that was anticipated at the time of its original design. While an estimated 20,000 motor vehicles traverse the highway each day, I-80 traffic is expected to increase to over 120,000 vehicles per day by 2030. As a result, Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) officials have planned several improvements-including installation of cable barriers-to the highway in an effort to make the common thoroughfare safer.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported record declines in traffic fatalities over the past several years; however, IDOT reported 386 traffic fatalities for 2010 as compared to 372 deaths in the previous year. While seat belts and airbags can help save lives, road construction is one way that states can improve highway safety.

The plan to install cable barriers focuses on a need to prevent crossover collisions. IDOT officials report that this safety measure has demonstrated 95 percent effectiveness in preventing cross-median crashes and rebound accidents. On May 13, 2011, three Iowa residents were injured and another was killed when a van lost control and crossed the median into oncoming traffic.

Construction of I-80 Barriers to Complete December 2011

IDOT workers plan to complete the installation of about 190 miles of these new barriers by the end of 2011. Significantly cheaper than steel and concrete barriers, the cost of these safety barriers is about $40,000. Transportation officials and the Iowa State Patrol have already seen the benefits of these safety features.

While there are many benefits of the cable barriers, law enforcement is also aware of some shortcomings. For the Iowa State Patrol and other first responders, the barriers will limit abilities to turn around and catch speeders. In the alternative, officers will more likely rely on special radar and aircrafts to catch law-breakers.

The Hawkeye State is not alone in its use of these new safety barriers. A number of states-including California, Florida, and Washington-have been using median cable guards for years, and have noted significant decreases in crash-related human losses.

Reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries is a national public health and safety priority. The state of Iowa, in joining its sister states' efforts, has found smart, cost effective ways to make our nation's roads safer.