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NTSB Comments on Maryland Traffic Barrier Corrosion Problems

In an October 11 blog post, we wrote about several serious truck and bus accidents that have occurred in years past on Maryland highways and bridges when those vehicles hit traffic barriers that were not strong enough to withstand impact. Many safety groups and experts suggested that taller and stronger concrete barriers be constructed at strategic locations.

Now the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has weighed in on the matter after a lengthy investigation of a 2008 Queen Anne's Countytruck crash that killed a truck driver after he swerved to avoid a sleeping driver coming toward him in the opposite lane and then hit a bridge barrier. A large section of the barrier was dislodged by the impact and fell into the Chesapeake Bay, the truck along with it.

The NTSB sent a recommendation letter to the Federal Highway Administration, citing an earlier investigation and $3 million worth of repairs carried out on the bridge by the Maryland Transportation Authority. In its letter, the agency suggested that engineers in other states be alerted as to how Maryland authorities identified the structural problems in the barrier and effected repairs, and also be made aware of the risks of corrosion in such supports.

Authorities believe that a major reason for the failure of the support and the tragic result was that certain areas of the bridge barrier could not be easily seen and inspected visually, and thus not repaired as necessary. These areas were precisely the areas where most of the corrosion issues occurred.

Following the accident, Maryland state engineers discovered the corrosion and undertook extensive repair work that included fastening the bridge sections to the deck of the bridge with iron brackets and bolting a guardrail to the side.

The truck driver's family eventually settled with the other driver's insurance company for $100,000.

Related Resource: "Transportation Safety Board warns about corrosion" November 27, 2010

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