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High-tension cables projected to provide more safety for U.S. 63 drivers

Friday, October 8, 2010 | 1:35 p.m. CDT; updated 5:41 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 8, 2010

COLUMBIA — Tensions run high over U.S. 63— and we’re not talking about angry commuters.

Drivers commuting between Jefferson City and Columbia on U.S. 63 after Aug. 1 of this year have had the protection of a high-tension cable barrier on the side of the road.

The barriers should prevent cars from going into the median and crossing into the opposing lane, but the high-tension cable is located closer to traffic, Jason Vanderfeltz, transportation project manager at the Missouri Department of Transportation, said.

Here are some facts about the new cable:

  • The cable is easier to maintain. When hit by a car, low-tension cables will be slightly less effective at catching vehicles and require maintenance immediately, Mike Curtit, a traffic engineer at MoDOT said. The high-tension cable can catch errant vehicles after it has already been hit.
  • It’s more expensive than low-tension cable to install. The cable costs $2 a foot more to install than the older low-tension cable, Vanderfeltz said, which translates to roughly $10,000 per mile.
  • Studies show it to be more effective at preventing fatalities. When considering which type of barrier to put in, Curtit said the team read studies that found, though it costs more and is closer to the road, high-tension barriers result in fewer deaths. “If you can save a fatality and have more nuisance hits, it’s kind of a trade off,” Vanderfeltz said.
  • The cable is already installed on Interstate 44 and Interstate 55.  Curtit said it was not installed on I-70 because they did not have the ability to put in the cable when its barriers were installed. “Technology and the industry kept improving their systems and that’s how we ended up with high-tension,” Curtit said.
  • The median width has to be at least 30 feet for it to be installed. In most places, U.S. 63 has nearly a 60-foot median width, Curtit said.

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