- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An effort to build cable barriers on Iowa’s Interstates has helped reduce the number of cross-median fatal crashes.

After 21 people died as a result of cross-median collisions in 2010, state officials installed 177 additional miles of cable median barriers. Since then, Iowa has seen fewer cross-median fatalities, dropping from nine in 2011 to six in 2014.

“We’re averaging now, for the past couple of years, between six and seven fatalities a year on the Interstate as a whole” from cross-median collisions, said Chris Poole, a safety programs engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

He said the state averaged 16 cross-median fatalities each year prior to 2011, when the cable barriers were installed.

Although officials in Nebraska don’t have plans to follow Iowa’s lead, some experts believe the effort also could work for Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1KG4F2d ) reported.

Jim Knott, the roadway design engineer with the Nebraska Department of Roads, said the state has wider medians that help prevent such crashes.

In its Roadside Design Guide, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recommends barriers for medians that are less than 30 feet across. Few medians in Nebraska are that narrow, with most of the medians on the state’s highways measuring 64 feet wide, allowing enough time for a driver entering to avoid a collision, Knott said.

“We’ve looked at it and determined at this point in time there is no reason for us to go beyond what’s in the Roadside Design Guide,” he said.

The average width of medians in Iowa is about 50 feet, Poole said.

Each state probably has taken the best approach for its particular set of circumstances, according to Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln civil engineering professor emeritus who has studied roadside safety and median barriers.

The biggest factor in cross-median crashes is traffic volume, he said, so lining Iowa’s highways with cable barriers makes more sense because they see much more traffic. Nebraska roughly has half of the overall traffic on its highways than Iowa has.

Of the 782 miles of highway in Iowa, about 280 miles currently have cable barriers, with plans to install more in the future.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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