Virginia to Replace Guardrails With Others Deemed Safer

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Controversial guardrail system passes most Virginia crash testsVirginia has decided to begin replacing certain roadside guardrails, including some made by Trinity Industries, a company that has been accused of making a defective rail. Richmond, Va. • Virginia will begin removing a controversial highway guardrail system from some of its roadways after a crash test confirmed its concerns about the safety of the device, state officials said Wednesday.RICHMOND, VA (WJHL) – The State of Virginia will replace thousands of guardrails across the commonwealth saying they’re not convinced they’re safe. A series of crash tests of Trinity’s ET-Plus guardrail that were overseen by Virginia’s Department of Transportation included one conducted at a shallow angle that the agency said had raised concerns. Virginia spent about $250,000 to perform its own tests of Trinity Industries Inc.’s ET-Plus System this year after deeming the safety tests overseen by the federal government to be insufficient.

Since the investigation started in October 2014, there have been at least four crashes where the guardrail penetrated the vehicle instead of curling up and absorbing the energy of the crash. VDOT said Wednesday it will launch a long-term plan to replace what’s called the ET-Plus modified end terminal, a yellow and black striped metal plate along roads across the country that’s meant to peel away a guardrail in a head-on crash. “One death on our roadways is one too many,” Garrett Moore, VDOT Chief Engineer, said. “When we begin to see potential issues on our roads that impact safety we are going to act in the best interest of motorists and public safety.” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring joined the federal fraud lawsuit against Trinity Industries in an attempt to get the company to pay for the replacement. A federal court in Texas ruled last last year the product manufacturer Trinity Industries committed fraud by not notifying customers it made changes to the product. Jeff Eller, a Trinity spokesman, said the ET-Plus was still accepted for federal reimbursement, and that the company supported Virginia’s move to “crash-test the current version of all guardrail end terminal products using its nonstandard criteria.” Installation of any new ET-Plus guardrails remains banned by Virginia.

But state officials are raising concerns about one of the two other assessments called “shallow-angle tests,” which shows what happens when a vehicle hits the device at an angle. Trinity Industries has said ET-Plus is safe and points to a federal crash test conducted late last year, where the government said ET-Plus passed with flying colors. Trinity Highway Products’ (THP) ET Plus System has been thoroughly reviewed by federal and state highway officials and multiple independent experts. There was no formal determination whether the device passed or failed the two shallow-angle tests performed by KARCO Engineering LLC at a facility in California. The long metal guardrail is supposed to flatten out into a ribbon when hit, absorbing the vehicle’s impact and reducing the chance of death or injury.

Guardrails are barriers placed along the edge of roadways and are intended to reduce the risk of serious accidents by preventing vehicles from driving off the road. But a lawsuit filed by Virginia’s attorney general and several lawsuits against Trinity nationwide say that changes made to the device cause it jam, turning it into a deadly spear upon impact.

Trinity has called Virginia’s additional tests “questionable and unreliable” and has accused state officials of trying to set it up to fail in order to support its lawsuit against the company. These in-service field reviews provide information on whether or not guardrail end terminals in Virginia are performing as they should when struck by a vehicle. Moore estimated it would cost about $100 million to replace all of the roughly 11,000 ET-Plus Systems on Virginia’s roads, but the state may remove only those that are located on high-speed roadways, where crashes are more severe.

The devices will be replaced with guardrail systems that meet updated safety standards and will be 31 inches tall instead of the current 27.75 inches, Moore said. Trinity has used newspaper and online ads in Virginia to aggressively defend its product, which it says functions as it’s supposed to when properly installed, maintained and repaired. Trinity claims that the department didn’t properly install the guardrail system for any of the tests and blasted state officials for not allowing it to inspect the testing facility and vehicles. “We think it’s time for VDOT to stop focusing on litigation and instead spend their money on real roadway safety issues,” Trinity says in a video on its website. VDOT will encourage the Federal Highway Administration, AASHTO, the industry and manufacturers to document, collect and share field performance results of MASH tested products.

After federal officials announced that the design met safety standards in March, the company, which had stopped manufacturing the devices, said it would resume shipments.

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