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Posted on Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

New cable median barriers to improve safety on Washtenaw County highways, MDOT says

By Lisa Carolin


Cable median barriers reduce the number of cross-median fatalities, the Michigan Department of Transportation says. Here, damage to a barrier can be seen following a crash on I-275 in Farmington Hills

MDOT photo

Some Washtenaw County highways will soon get new median barriers designed to save lives.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is installing cable barriers in freeway medians to reduce the frequency and severity of median-crossover crashes.

MDOT says cross-median crashes are three times more deadly than other freeway crashes, and the cable barriers are expected to reduce those crashes by an estimated 90 percent. MDOT estimates that cable barriers will save 13 lives and prevent 51 incapacitating injuries a year.

The median cable barriers, which are made of steel wire ropes mounted on posts, absorb the energy of a vehicle crash, preventing the vehicle from bouncing back into traffic.

"In Washtenaw County, we currently do not have median cable barrier up on any state freeways," said MDOT spokeswoman Kari Arend. "In 2012, we have median cable barrier going in on I-94 from Parker west to the Washtenaw-Jackson County line, and in 2013, median cable will be installed on US-23 from M-50 north to the Monroe/Washtenaw County line in Monroe County."

In 2014, median cable is expected to be installed on US-23 from I-94 south to the Washtenaw/Monroe County line.

Livingston County will also be getting the new barriers. "Cable barriers will be installed on US-23 between M-36 in Livingston County north to the Genesee County line next year," said Wendy Ramirez, traffic and safety engineer at the MDOT Brighton Transportation Center.

MDOT is in the third year of efforts to install cable guardrail along 280 miles of highway medians in place of steel guardrails and concrete barriers.

Cable barriers cost $14-$16 per foot compared with steel guardrails, which cost $28-$33 per foot and concrete barriers, which cost $80 per foot. Unlike the latter two, cable barriers can be placed on sloping shoulders.

Arend says that locations for the cable barriers are chosen based on accident history and the physical location of the site selected.

"Cable guardrails can damage vehicles, but not nearly as much as a concrete barrier or steel guardrail," she said. "Motorists should call 911 and request professional assistance removing their vehicle from the cables."

Cable barriers are currently being installed in Ingham County between US-127 and Okemos Road.



Thu, Sep 5, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

When I first saw these cable barriers, I thought to myself, insurance costs will go up. A simple slide into the median cost a tow truck call before, not anymore. A clip from an MLive article proved that true. Greg Owsiany has seen the impact of new cable barriers installed along Interstate 94 — in higher body shop repairs. "They really slice stuff open. ...$4,000 to $5,000 if they just touch that fence," said Owsiany, owner of Greg's Body Shop, three miles from the Paw Paw exit on I-94. Along with added insurance costs, these cables are deadly also. Here is an article where a man was decapitated by the cable. So these expensive barriers that are supposed to save lives can take lives. That shows the thought put into spending our tax dollars!


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Better than not having any barriers, when inclement weather comes it'll make most of the accidents less threatening if your on the opposite side of the road.

Jim Walker

Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

Nothing is perfect, but this style of barrier is usually effective to prevent the most dangerous type of accident - the head-on when a vehicle crosses the median strip. The system also stops or diverts the vehicle more gently than a solid steel or concrete protection barrier, so it puts less force on the people. And the cost factor is much lower, as the spokesperson noted. I would like to see them throughout the state to keep lowering our fatality rate which is already about 25% lower than the national average. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> Ann Arbor, MI


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

The German Federal Highway Research Institute has published a study that looks at the safety of various median barriers specifically with respect to motorcyclists. They focused primarily on steel guardrails and concrete barriers which are more common in Germany, but also looked intom steel wire systems like the one proposed here. Their conclusion was that they do pose a high risk of injusry to motorcyclists, mostly because exremities get snagged betwen the wires. The study can be found here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

I read the article Chris submitted. So we have the cables going up, stopping 15 cars, but allowing one to under to stop in the median &amp; not allowing to hit anyone in the opposite direction. They do not also bounce and roll back into traffic. I fail to see the problem. I understand 'TWPD'. All of you riding on two wheels take your lives in your hands every time you saddle up, much more so than than anyone driving 4 wheeler. Of all the failures of the state and federal govenment, I think they went smart with this.


Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

@stan: I'd bet that in most cases, when a vehicle leaves the roadway and enters the median on our local expressways, the vehicle (motorcycle or not) never reaches the other side of the median even without barriers. When they do it likely results in a horrific collision hence the desire for some kind of barrier. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a barrier there, just that if you do put one up, the result should be safer roadways for all motorists, even the ones on two wheels. Not something that is safer for most, but more deadly for others.

Stan Hyne

Tue, Oct 18, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

Crossing the median and hitting another vehicle head on is also very damaging to motor cycle riders


Mon, Oct 17, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

You are correct that a two wheeled vehicle is inherently more dangerous that an enclosed vehicle. I take that risk and manage it every day I ride (which is almost every day) But shouldn't motorcyclist safety be taken into account when modifying the public roadways. Why is it ok to put up a &quot;safety&quot; barrier that may work for most, but is more likely to kill the minority? Because it's cheaper?


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 12:39 p.m.

I wonder if anyone but me has wondered what might happen to a motorcyclist who encountered one of these barriers. Seems like certain death by decapitation would be the result. Every time I am on a road that has these &quot;safer&quot; barriers, I stay as far away as possible from them.


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

I like this idea because it is cheaper and smarter.


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

cheaper to install initially, BUT drive down I-94 out by Rawsonville, Bellville, Haggerty roads where the barriers have been installed already. They get tore up allllll the time, like 50 posts needing to be replaced at a time along with the cabling at a time. The cost of continually replacing and repairing these will quickly overtake the initial cost saving. Looks to me, that from a purely cost/econ stand point, the powers that be did not look past stage one planing and analysis.

Chris 8 - YPSI PRIDE

Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Before money is wasted on these read the following article. The speed limit on most Michigan highways and interstates is 70. keep this in mind. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Smart Logic

Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

They cost 1/4 what the concrete barriers do. They're something like 90-95% effective as compared to 60% for concrete barriers. Winter slide-offs do run a higher chance of vehicle damage due to them, but in the end there are lives saved. Isn't that the most important thing?


Sun, Oct 16, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

&quot;Despite concerns in Suffolk, the cable barriers are growing in popularity. North Carolina has made a big push to install them – and has seen crossover fatalities drop 75 percent.&quot; From the article you cited.