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Ohio to replace more guardrails with cable barriers

Ohio has cable barriers along 300 miles of highways and is considering adding more of the cable barriers, which are cheaper and less damaging than highway guardrails and concrete barriers used to block cars from crossing over medians and into oncoming traffic.

The state started using the cable barriers nearly a decade ago along highways with medians up to 59 feet wide, and officials say it has lowered the number of cross-median crash fatalities along such routes as Interstates 70, 71 and 270, The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday. Engineers with the Ohio Department of Transportation are set to review the possibility of adding cable barriers to another 136 miles of busy state highways and interstates with slightly wider medians, up to 70 feet.

That would include parts of the highways that loop Columbus and sections of I-70 and I-71 in nearby Delaware and Madison counties.

It costs about $95,000 per mile to install the cable barriers by guardrail pile drivers. The state will use crash data to determine which areas are hazardous enough to justify the cost, ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner said.

Between 2002 and 2010, 70 people died in cross-median crashes on the stretches of Ohio highway that now have cable barriers, according to the department.

Faulkner said state officials know of only one fatal crash involving a vehicle that crossed the cable barriers into oncoming traffic. It occurred last month on Interstate 70 near Columbus.

Faulkner noted that there’s a trade-off with using the barriers, as the number of crashes may increase because swerving drivers hit cable barriers where there was previously no barrier.

“I’m sure many loved ones would prefer a dented fender over a loss of life any day,” he said.

ODOT data shows the cable barriers are safer than highway guardrails or concrete barriers, the newspaper said. People are hurt in about 15 percent of crashes involving the cable barriers, compared with more than a quarter of guardrail crashes and a third of concrete barrier crashes.