Guardcables offer a softer collision than vehicle would have with concrete barriers
SIKESTON -- Travel on Interstate 55 between Sikeston and Cape Girardeau will soon be safer.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is scheduled to award a contract Friday for the installation of guardcable in the median of I-55 from Route E at Oak Ridge to the Interstate 57 interchange, according Tim Pickett, transportation project designer for MoDOT.
Andy Meyer, project manager MoDOT, explained guardcable consists of three strands of cable placed eight feet from the passing lane on one side of the median.
"If you lose control of your vehicle, it will keep you from crossing over into opposing traffic," Meyer said. "It will absorb that impact and redirect the vehicle into a stop."
This absorption makes the guardcables even better than concrete barriers.
"It's a softer collision than you would have with a concrete barrier," Meyer said. "If you hit a concrete barrier it is very severe."
Concrete barriers also can cause vehicles to rebound back into traffic, he noted.
The guardcable system has another advantage over concrete barriers as well.
"It's not as expensive. You can install this cable system at a much lower cost so instead of getting five miles of concrete barrier we can get 50 miles of cable," Meyer said. "It's also really easy to repair after being hit. Two maintenance guys, a half-ton pickup and a pry bar can get this back into operation in a very short time."
Installation is expected to begin in May and should be complete by the end of the year.
"The reason we pulled that portion out to do first is that stretch has the highest traffic volumes in our district," said Meyer. "We'll get the most bang for our buck by applying it there first."
Eventually, if funding is available, MoDOT officials hope to have the guardcable on I-55's median from St. Louis to the Arkansas state line, Meyer said.
"We've installed the guardcable system on several of the other interstate corridors and watched the number of fatalities and accident injuries reduced dramatically as a result," he said. "The severity of the accidents we've seen has been reduced."
Guardcable in place already -- nearly 500 miles of it -- includes 20 miles on I-55; 180 miles on I-70; 250 miles on I-44; 35 miles on I-29; and 14 miles on I-435.
These guardcables have stopped more than 95 percent of vehicles from crossing into opposing traffic lanes and have reduced fatalities by 92 percent in four years, according to MoDOT.
The guardcables also also provide some protection for emergency responders while on the median.