Early tests spell success for higher Causeway guardrails

Early tests spell success for higher Causeway guardrails

Texas A&M engineers have just released stunning new video of crash tests involving higher guardrails proposed for the Causeway.

Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou said the system would cost tens of millions of dollars, but he has little doubt that it would save lives.

The tests were conducted Friday at an old airfield in College Station, Texas.

"What Texas A&M did was fabricate a reproduction of the Causeway's 1956 rail," said Dufrechou.

That would be the existing southbound guardrail with a new guard rail installed on top, making it 12 inches, or one-third, higher. Highway engineers slammed a 20,000-pound truck moving at 57 mph into the new and improved rail.

"Right now it would go over - no two ways about it," said Dufrechou.

The Causeway Commission spent $180,000 for these tests, money that Dufrechou says was well worth it.

"We got a terrific bridge, but the right thing to do is make it as safe as possible, and to do that we need new rails," he said.

Dufrechou says in just about every case, the vehicles that roll off the bridge, are high profile SUVs and pickup trucks, and their numbers are going up.

"We've had six overboards in the past two years, 14 in the last 20 years," said Dufrechou.

And with drivers more distracted than ever, Dufrechou is encouraged by test results that show the higher rails keeping the large truck on the bridge.

"The SUV that went over last week rolled much similar to this, and tumbled," said Dufrechou.

In addition to higher guardrails, he said he would also like to have a system of safety pullout bays and hopes to have a plan to present to the commission early next year.

"Once we have some more data, by January we should have some real numbers," said Dufrechou.

Those numbers could lead to toll increases.

"I'd pay a dollar more, I'd pay two," said commuted Kim Breazeale. "I'd pay up to five more if they could fix that bridge so nobody would go off."

"For the amount of cars that went off the bridge, I don't think it's worth the increase," said commuter Tommy Fain.

Dufrechou said he's already working to minimize costs to commuters, who already pay $3 per round trip.

"As recently as noon today I met with north shore lawmakers about ideas," he said. "What we're trying to do right now is look for any source of potential funding."

More tests are on the way. On Monday, engineers will pit a standard SUV against the new and improved guardrails. Then they will try those same vehicles against an even high guardrail system, raised 9 additional inches to 46 inches - nearly double the current guardrail height on the older, southbound span.

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