JEFFERSON CITY - Preliminary figures released by the Missouri Department of Transportation for 2008 show only one cross-median highway death where guard cable was installed.
Guard cable installation has been complete on the state's two major interstates - 70 and 44 - for several years with tremendous results. In 2002, with only limited miles of guard cable installed on I-70, there were 24 cross-median fatalities. In 2008, preliminary statistics show there was one such fatality. I-44 had 25 crossover deaths in 2006. That number dropped to zero in 2008 thanks to the guard cable.
"When you think of the lives we've saved with something as simple as median guard cables, it's phenomenal," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. "These statistics aren't just numbers - they're family members and friends who are alive today thanks to these highway safety improvements."
The American Society of Civil Engineers has cited the success of Missouri's median guard cables in reducing highway deaths in its 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure. The society's recently released report card gave the nation's infrastructure a grade of D and said a five-year investment of $2.2 trillion is needed for improvement. However, it also cited positive examples, such as Missouri's guard cable installation, that demonstrate progress is being made.
"The cable barriers have performed successfully in Missouri, catching over 95 percent of vehicles entering the median," the report stated. "Most importantly, it is saving lives."
MoDOT has installed about 550 miles of guard cable in medians of the state's busiest highways - Interstates 70, 44, 29, 35, 55 and 435 and Route 67 - where congested, high-speed traffic was resulting in vehicles crossing medians and colliding head-on with vehicles going in the other direction. Additional guard cable will be installed on Interstate 470 and Routes 63 and 65 in the next few years.
Median guard cable, made of three strands of steel cable, is designed to "catch" a vehicle before it crosses into the opposing traffic lanes, bringing it to a stop before it collides with other vehicles. It's generally used where medians are 60 feet wide or less.
You can find the American Society of Civil Engineers' full report at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/