Virginia Department of Transportation Prioritizing Inspection of 10,000 Guardrails

Oct. 4, 2022
VDOT makes inspection a priority after a safety advocate spoke up

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is prioritizing the inspection of 10,000 guardrails statewide and is also upgrading the training for inspectors after complaints from a safety advocate.

According to Channel 11 News, on Thursday, VDOT confirmed it had replaced 18 guardrail end terminals on Interstate 81 between Bristol and Marion, Virginia.

The replacements came after an East Tennessee highway safety advocate spotted terminals with significant rust and metal loss. Steve Eimers said he documented about 20 terminals with visible damage and sent the list to VDOT.

“These are not crashworthy, and we don’t know how these would perform in a crash,” he told News Channel 11. Eimers worried the guardrail end terminals, which are meant to absorb a head-on crash and peel the guardrail away from a crashing car, were potentially unsafe because of age and damage.

VDOT replaced a total of 18 terminals along I-81 between Bristol and Marion “out of an abundance of caution,” said a VDOT spokesman.

Eimers applauded VDOT for taking action.

Eimers suspects the rusty guardrails replaced by VDOT in the Bristol district may be two decades old. He believes the rust may have been caused by extensive exposure to weather, road salt, and brine. VDOT is determining how old the guardrails were.

“We have retained 18 recently replaced terminals in the Bristol district and are working to identify the lot numbers,” said Marshall Herman, VDOT spokesman. Herman said the manufacturer can use the lot numbers to determine age as long as they are still visible on the product.

Eimers says that information should be known immediately. The terminals should have previously been identified for replacement by VDOT through its maintenance program.

“We don’t know what we have, and we don’t know where it is,” he said, referring to VDOT and state departments of transportation across the United States. “We don’t know the condition [of highway safety equipment]. VDOT is in the top 10 percent of the nation trying. And we’re not doing what we need to be doing in Virginia.”

Eimers says VDOT should see the guardrails as a wake-up call. “VDOT needs to inspect every inch of state DOT roadways,” he said. “Ultimately, they need to inspect every terminal in the state.”

“VDOT has programs to replace damaged guardrails as well as a risk-based program to replace a certain number of older terminals each year,” Herman said. “The agency also is assessing information on factors that may accelerate deterioration of terminals in certain locations of the commonwealth and will determine if additional attention needs to be focused on terminals in those areas. We will look for opportunities through our routine maintenance activities to identify any additional locations for replacements as appropriate.”

On Thursday, VDOT seemed to go a step further saying that, in addition to the inspection and replacement programs, the agency would enhance training for inspectors, prioritizing inspections for terminals like the ones just replaced near Bristol and Marion.


Source: Channel 11 News/WHJL

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