guard rails

I must explain myself prior to  you reading these emails. A long time ago I bunked with an attorney with the  Inspector General’s Office of Massachusetts. He had come over from the AG’s office. The State of NH does not have an Office of Inspector General. Massachusetts wishes we did as cross border cases could be coordinated. I once mentioned this to Warren Henderson when he was in office.

Blank stare.

The Inspector Generals Office , most States have them, to keep an  eye on government and it’s contractors. They usually have their own team of investigators.

Some might say , “Oh we are too small a State” “NH is as clean as a whistle”

Ok.

There was a case in MA that involved a contractor that had a contract to remove damaged guard rail. Well there was some confusion on his part as to what constitutes “damaged”

This case involved several players, employees, junk yards, all that . It just stuck in my mind that stupid case.

I can’t remember  what happened. There were lots of cases like that, and with an IG, it does get rooted out.

So, when I see guys working guard rail, I just  look over, it’s a tic, and it happened before Christmas in Plymouth NH while visiting  my brother.

I sent a note to Mr Boynton our NH DOT spokesman, we have shared emails on many subjects for quite some time. It’s great to be able to ask a question , and get an answer.

From: Michael Lambert [mailto:mlambert2@comcast.net]

Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2013 8:37 AM

To: William Boynton

Subject: guardrails

Good morning,

I was up to Plymouth NH last week and saw some guard rails being replaced on 93. Are we changing out the wooden posts with steel? I always wondered about us using wooden posts as I thought they would shear off.

I have seen on route 95 in the Danvers area that MA DOT has installed a low catch fence in the median. It looks to be only two or 3 cables, but enough perhaps to tangle up a vehicle that is headed across the median towards oncoming traffic. I feel we have many areas of our system that would benefit from such an installation. Route 101 for sure and 89. I would like to hear your thoughts on this safety improvement.

Happy Holidays

Mike Lambert

Exeter, NH

Good Morning Mike….

I forwarded your inquiry, and is often the case when working with engineers, got a VERY detailed answer….

Here’s a take from one of our guardrail experts on wooden vs. metal guardrail posts….

The story of wood posts vs. steel posts is one that spans several decades. Originally the wood posts were considered more aesthetic and supporting of local industries, particularly the lumber industry. The reality that became known is that the wood posts were and are being supplied from southern forests rather than those in New England.

When the creosote became considered a carcinogenic material making the treated posts a controlled solid waste, disposal became a problem both for contract costs and for costs to highway maintenance for repair and replacement. The creosote treatment was replaced with CCA, copper, chromium, and arsenic, all three being toxic, also resulting in the posts being a controlled solid waste. The steel posts were found to have a recycling value even though the galvanizing is a lead process.

If that weren’t enough of an issue, it was not uncommon for the wood posts to either rot or deteriorate from insects long before the anticipated lifespan. This rarely was visible above ground so that the rail had no visible issues but when it was struck or disturbed by adjacent ground disturbing construction was the issue known. It would not be unknown to try to replace a post and find that the stub below ground needed to be excavated as the top of the post separated from the bottom.

Additionally, we do not general have easy soils to drive posts into and wood posts, by the fact that the end is a blunt 6” X 8” rectangle vs. the 6 X 8.5 W section steel post, the steel posts are generally easier to drive. When we began bidding steel posts the price of steel post guardrail was and is lower than that of wood post guardrail on a per linear foot basis.

Although I don’t know of a formal policy to institute all steel posts for guardrail but, as a practice, we are putting in all of our new full runs of guardrail with all steel posts, except for specific treatments that were only crash tested with wood posts. As a practice, we replace full or nearly full runs of guardrail with all steel posts.

When we only have a relatively few wood posts percentage wise in a run that needs replacement we are replacing those with wood posts, primarily due to concern with aesthetics of mixing in the steel posts. I am not so certain that the traveling public would truly notice but concern exists.

As far as crashworthiness of the posts, they are accepted as equivalent by the FHWA in a standard run of rail thus far.

As for median barrier, guardrail, etc., we continue to install at various locations on divided highways, including I-93, I-89 and NH 101. The snag type cable you referred to has been in place for a few years in fairly wide median along a section of I-93 in Manchester near Exit 10. This is what I sent to news media recently in response to inquiries following the fatal crossover crash on a section of I-89 in Lebanon

Our 2012 study of possible locations where median barrier should be considered due to median width and crash rate did identify the area between Exit 18-19. We recently placed median barrier as part of the Exit 20 project and also as part of the Lebanon –Enfield project (Exit 15-17) just to the south. This section between Exit 17-19 is slated to be improved with a 4R project that will include a review whether median barrier should be placed. The 4R project is in the Ten Year Plan as Lebanon 15880, and has a new Construction date of 2020.

Typically we have limited our placement of barrier to those areas where the median is much narrower, 50’ or less. With a median of 110’ we probably wouldn’t have included it outright, unless there were substantial crashes (like this one). In the past we have constructed median barrier on wide medians (I-93 in Manchester near Exit 10) because of the number of serious median crossover crashes that had occurred

Probably more than you wanted to know….by definition divided highways are much safer than two lane roads, but crossover crashes, however rare, tend to be catastrophic.

Bill Boynton

NHDOT Public Information Officer

From: Michael Lambert [mailto:mlambert2@comcast.net]

Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2013 12:41 PM

To: William Boynton

Subject: Re: guardrails

This a terrific reply, would it be all right since this is a “clean” reply would it be all right if I included the information or the complete email in a blog post on how we are moving forward and why?

Thanks so much.

Mike

Sure….it’s a little fragmented…but feel free to use….

Bill Boynton

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