ODOT considers replacing guard rails on two-lane highways

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is considering replacing guardrails on the side of some two-lane highways with cable barriers, which officials said have been effective in reducing crossover collisions.

According to ODOT officials, cable barriers installed in the center median on many divided highways throughout the state have been effective in reducing the incidence and severity of crossover collisions.

"Cable barrier was a huge phenomenon when it first came to the department in the late 90s when we began to study it," Terri Angier, a spokesperson for ODOT, said.

Cable barriers consist of pre-stretched wire rope threaded through or around metal posts that are anchored into the ground with concrete. It started as a pilot program on Lake Hefner Parkway.

Records indicate 37 traffic fatalities in crossover crashes on highways with no barriers in 2004. In comparison, ODOT logged nine fatalities in crossover collisions across the state in 2017.

"Cable barriers became the answers to our prayers of what's out there that we could use," Angier said.

ODOT officials provided one example where cable barrier in the center median on SH-74 prevented a vehicle from crossing over into traffic in the opposite lanes near Britton Road during snow and ice.

"They lost control and the cable was able to stop them and get them back to the median and get them on their way," Angier said.

Now, ODOT is considering cable barriers for a new application, which would replace guardrails at the side of the road on some two-lane highways.

Officials said more than 685 miles of cable barrier have been installed across the state since 2007, at a cost of $81 million.

The agency plans to install 11 more miles of cable barrier in the near future.

"Right now, we're looking in northeast Oklahoma. There are a few areas near Tahlequah that the guard rail is due for replacement," Angier said.

US-270 in Pontotoc County is slated to receive 4.6 miles of cable barrier and a contract is tentatively scheduled to be awarded in October for installation of 6.6 miles of cable barrier on US-81 in Grady County.

While ODOT believes cable barriers on more Oklahoma highways will help cut down on fatal crossover accidents, officials want to remind you that at the end of the day, in most cases, preventing a life-changing collision is up to drivers.

"We don't want to, in any way, give them any false hope that it's foolproof. Really, what's foolproof is in our hands," Angier said.