National highway safety organization approves guardrail study to test for effectiveness, safety

A review of guardrail systems on highways starting

West Palm Beach, Fla. - The end terminals of the guardrail systems that line our roadways will soon be tested for safety and effectiveness.

In March, a committee with a national traffic safety non-profit, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, approved an in-service review of guardrail terminals.

It hopes to determine whether or not guardrail end terminals currently on our roadways, which have performed acceptably in crash tests, are actually performing the way they are designed to perform in real-world accidents.

The review was initiated after the committee surveyed state transportation officials across the country, Tony Dorsey, AASHTO's Manager of Media Relations said. The survey asked state officials if they had been having problems with any guardrail end terminals.

"Evaluating end-terminal performance in the field over the life of the device is the only real way to judge the long-term effectiveness of the hardware," according to the program description for the review.

According to a letter from AASHTO, three state department of transportation officials who responded to the survey, said they had experienced some issues with guardrail end terminals. Two of the state officials, specifically mentioned a system manufactured by Trinity Industries: the ET-Plus.

It is expected to take three years to complete and cost $650,000, Mark Bush, a senior program officer with NCHRP said. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) conducts research in problem areas that affect highway planning, design and construction, according to its website.

Dorsey said review will not isolate any one terminal manufacturer or model. Instead the review was approved with the intention to look at all types and brands of end terminals on our roadways.

The completed research from the review will provide information that ultimately will be used in making decisions about replacing and upgrading guardrail terminals.

State department of transportation agencies provide funding through AASHTO to the research program, NCHRP.  The program is operated in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, FHWA and is administered through the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.

The money from the states, comes from a portion of their Federal-Aid-Highway funds. The map below shows how much money each state contributes to the program.

The guardrail end terminal review is part of the 2014 research program approved by AASHTO. The 2014 research program totals $13 million.

So far the members of the review panel have been selected and discussion over what exactly will be evaluated is just beginning.

Members of the panel include current state transportation officials from Florida, Kansas, Washington, Iowa and Ohio. The review panel is also made up of traffic and highway safety experts from nonprofits and private businesses from across the country. Click here to see a full list of the panel members.

"Panel members do not act as consultants or advisors to project investigators," Bush said in an email.  "They may not submit proposals for research.  All members serve as individuals, voluntarily without compensation."

The panel expects to release a request for proposal and begin accepted applications from research contractors later this month. Bush said the research contractors could range from academic institutes to private consultants.

A recommendation for whom the research contractor will be is expected in February 2014, with research starting in the spring or summer.  


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