NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - For over a year now, engineers at Texas A&M have been crashing heavy trucks, light trucks and cars into a variety of bridge rail systems near College Station, Texas, and on Wednesday presented results to the Causeway Commission.
"We think it will do a better job of retainment and keeping vehicles from going back onto the roadway," said Dr. Willam Williams, the lead highway engineer.
Williams laid out three different designs. One is a single guardrail system called Option A that would add a rail 14 inches taller. The other is a hybrid two-rail system called Option B-1 that engineers say might work best for the shorter 25-inch rail on the southbound Causeway.
"The existing rail on the southbound is low," Williams said. "The two-rail B 1 retrofit would bring that to a 46 inch height."
The newer northbound side of the Causeway has a guardrail that's much higher than the older southbound, and it appears that Causeway commissioners are more inclined to go with a less expensive single-rail option on the northbound side.
"Once we add Option A to northbound, it would raise it to 45 inches," Williams said.
Both designs were effective in keeping trucks as heavy as 22,000 pounds, smaller pickup trucks and cars on the road surface - an improvement which could eliminate often-fatal vehicle overboards.
"If these rails were on the bridge for the last couple of year, every vehicle that went over would have been contained," said Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou.
More than 100 miles of new heavy steel guardrails will cost millions of dollars, and with grant money limited, toll increases are possible.
"We're already going after three different federal grants," Dufrechou said. The next step for us to do hard engineering estimates."
Commissioners hope to have those estimates by this fall to help decide how best to move forward.