Highway barrier along the median still saving lives

'Those wires save lives. It's a real technological advance in road safety and engineering,' says the head of Fraser Valley Traffic Service

The cable-wire barrier in Chilliwack did it again. The special safety fence stretched along the median on Highway 1 might have prevented another cross-over crash last week.

The cable-wire barrier in Chilliwack did it again. The special safety fence stretched along the median on Highway 1 might have prevented another cross-over crash last week.

The cable-wire barrier stretched along the Chilliwack section of the Trans Canada Highway has done it again.

A driver left the highway last week, hitting the median wire near Prest Road, before rolling over.

It was not a fatal collision, possibly as a direct result of bouncing off the high-tech wire barrier and coming to rest in the grassy median.

“It certainly did its job in this case,” confirmed RCMP Staff Sgt. Dave Peet, head of Fraser Valley Traffic Services, speaking about the median wire barrier that runs from Annis Road to Lickman Road.

“Those wires save lives. This is a real technological advance in road safety and engineering. You don’t have to go any further than the I-5 to also see them in action across the line.”

The wire tension is “incredible,” he noted. The barrier has the unique ability to absorb the enormous impact of vehicle collisions, keeping them from catapulting back out toward traffic and crashing into other vehicles.

“Anytime you can prevent a head-on crash, you’ve done something right,” said Mike Weightman, road safety coordinator for ICBC in the Fraser Valley.

When the first section of wire-cable barrier went up along Highway 1 near Chilliwack in 2007, it only covered three kilometres from Young Road to Prest Road.

It was the first time the technology had ever been tested on a major B.C. highway, with wire ropes supported by collapsible posts and anchor polls. By design, the energy of any impact is absorbed, which reduces the chance of fatalities, injuries and vehicle damage.

Before the barrier was installed, it was a notorious section of the Trans Canada with a history of cross-over crashes. The local MLAs of the day pushed Ministry of Transportation to try out the wire barrier concept, with the support of local community members.

They went ahead with the wire barrier idea, installing it at a cost of about $364,000, with about $30,000 from ICBC.

The idea was to cut down the number of fatal crashes on the grassy medians separating the lanes of traffic. And it worked like a charm — saving numerous lives and reducing crash injuries over the years.

The first extension of the median wire barrier went in going east from Prest to Annis Road at a cost of just over $632,000. Then it was extended all the way to Lickman Road, in a joint provincial and federal project that cost about $1 million and was completed in 2010/11.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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