Last Modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 5:02 PM
The state Department of Transportation and Development made a good call in adding more median barriers to Louisiana’s interstate highways.
The high speeds cars travel on the interstates can make them dangerous when one small mistake is made, a driver becomes impaired for one reason or another or the vehicle suffers a mechanical failure.
There are enough hazards that can’t be helped, but we should do everything we can to make the interstate highways as safe as possible. The state will soon begin adding nearly 350 miles of cable median barriers along interstates across Louisiana to prevent deadly crossover accidents.
The work represents a fivefold increase from the 81 miles erected so far, mostly in south Louisiana.
It will also address virtually all the sections of interstate that need the protection, said Sherri LeBas, secretary for DOTD.
“We will continue to see what we are seeing now, which is less errant vehicles or trailers crossing the median,” LeBas said.
The work is set to cost $46 million, mostly from federal funds.
Several high-profile tragedies underscore the problem.
In 2011, a mother, her three children and a second adult were killed on Interstate 10 near Highland Road in Baton Rouge when a pickup crossed the median as it spun clockwise and struck head-on the car in which they were riding.
In 2008, Grace Gary, 8, was killed on I-10 when she and her Baton Rouge family were returning from New Orleans on Palm Sunday.
“Every mile of cable barrier that gets put up helps to grow Grace’s legacy that much more, and that to us is part of why we do this,” said Jimmy Gary.
The cables are designed to deflect vehicles that enter the median, keeping them from crossing over into oncoming traffic.
The effort is set to take three years and for completion by June 30, 2016.
New cable barriers are planned on interstates 10, 12, 20 and 55. Dan Magri, highway safety administrator for DOTD, said interstates 49 and 59 also will be checked.
Some of the specific sites are still being worked on.
“It will be where we do not have cable currently and where we do not have a wide median or a tree line,” Magri said.
Much of the previous efforts have focused on heavily traveled I-10.
Last September, the state finished installing a 22.5-mile section of cable median barriers on I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Other areas on the three-year list include 44 miles along I-10 in Jefferson Davis and Calcasieu parishes in Southwest Louisiana.
Magri said the barriers cost between $125,000 and $150,000 per mile.
Interstate highways are a tremendous benefit for Louisiana. Let’s keep them as safe as possible.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.