The Michigan Department of Transportation will begin installing cable-guardrail barriers today along 16 miles of the U.S. 23 median in Monroe County in an effort to reduce the risk of head-on collisions.
The barriers - three steel cables strung along small steel posts - are designed to catch and absorb energy from vehicles that enter the median, keeping them from crossing into oncoming traffic.
It's a lower-cost alternative to concrete walls or formed-steel guardrails that MDOT is installing along about 290 miles of freeway throughout the state, after studying median crashes on 340 miles of Michigan's roads.
The installations are expected to cost about $40 million and are about half complete, said Bob Felt, an MDOT spokesman.
On U.S. 23, the cable barrier will be installed between the Ohio-Michigan border and Dundee.
The work will require intermittent left-lane closings until completion, scheduled for November, the transportation department said.
Kari Arend, another MDOT spokesman, said locations for the cable barriers were chosen based on histories of where severe or fatal head-on crashes had occurred.
She could provide no specific data for U.S. 23, but in 2000, an Adrian man died and a Whitehouse man was seriously injured when a northbound vehicle crossed the median in Whiteford Township, about a mile north of the state border, and collided with a southbound car.
MDOT expects median cable guardrails to reduce cross-median crashes by 90 percent, compared with 60-percent effectiveness of concrete barrier wall, which also costs four times as much.
The cable barrier can stretch and deform to absorb energy from wayward cars and trucks, while concrete barriers sometimes break from strong impact or are vaulted by high-profile vehicles.
Other freeways where cable barrier already is up include the I-275 beltway around western Detroit. Ms. Arend and Mr. Felt said there is no current plan to install such a barrier on U.S. 23 north of Dundee, though part of the same highway in Livingston County is on the list.
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