IN-DEPTH: Cable barriers on Hwy 6 included in $600 million effort to make Texas highways safer

Posted at 10:07 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 12:13:46-04

WACO, Texas — Traveling along Highway 6 between Waco and College Station, you might see some construction taking place.

Cable barriers are being installed as part of an effort to bring down the number of traffic deaths.

That includes "$600 million being allocated over the past two years to safety projects statewide," said Jake Smith, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.

Smith said TxDOT would like to put an end to traffic deaths by 2050.

"It's an ambitious goal, but a necessary one, and one we really do think we can achieve as Texans if we are all in it together," said Smith.

The portion in Waco is 90 percent federally funded and 10 percent from the State of Texas.

The cable barriers have been around for years. The goal is for the cables to help stop head-on collisions.

Jake Smith.jpg
Jake Smith

"Cable barriers specifically are being installed along divided highways," Smith said. "And what they can do is they can prevent traffic veering over onto the other side of the highway and hopefully help reduce the amount of head-on crashes."

So far in 2021 more people died in the Lone Star State than in 2020, according to a database from the Texas Department of Transportation; there have been over 1,600 deaths this year. That's up 14 percent from 2020.

"With these projects, whether we're talking about the cable barrier installation that we're talking about right now, or other safety projects being funded around the state or even in our district, the ultimate goal is increasing and improving safety," Smith said.

The cable barriers have been tested at Texas A&M Transportation Institute for several years.

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Lance Bullard

"They've been around for a number of years," said Lance Bullard, division head at Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "They're a very low cost-effective solution to preventing crossover accidents."

The cables help stop the vehicle like a concrete barrier.

"The cables are stretched under high tension along the length of the roadway, run parallel to the roadway," Bullard said. "And when a vehicle encounters those, it provides a very soft redirection and capturing of that vehicle."

The cables are not designed for all vehicles.

"They're designed to basically encapsulate 85 percent, the 85th percentile of the vehicle fleet or population out there," Bullard said.

They are there to capture your smaller vehicles on the road.

"They're not intended necessarily to capture an 18-wheeler or redirect 18-wheelers," Bullard said. "So these 80,000 pounds, semi-tractor-trailer rigs."

They hope to have the project done by the middle of winter.