DelDOT Bans Use of Guardrail Treatment Amid Safety Concerns - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DelDOT Bans Use of Guardrail Treatment Amid Safety Concerns

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DOVER, Del. – The Delaware Department of Transportation banned the future use of a guardrail end treatment due to safety concerns.

According to DelDOT, the product is called the ET-Plus guardrail head. They describe it as a rectangular metal cap that fits over the end of metal guardrails. DelDOT says the product is meant reduce the severity of crashes where a vehicle hits the end of a guardrail.

DelDOT says the ET-Plus is produced by Trinity Industries of Texas, and is one of several products approved for use on guardrails nationwide by the Federal Highway Administration.

However, DelDOT says the product is under scrutiny nationwide and is now banned by 28 states, including Delaware.

Delaware's ban follows an Oct. 20 finding by a federal jury in Texas that Trinity defrauded the federal government by making a cost-cutting design change without telling the Federal Highway Administration. The court ordered the company to pay $175 million.

A whistleblower had alleged the company changed the design but didn't inform regulators for several years, according to DelDOT.

DelDOT says allegations of a design flaw that can turn a guardrail into a spear surfaced in victims' lawsuits and in the case put before the seven-member Texas jury that decided that Trinity had violated the federal False Claims Act.

The FHWA has instructed the manufacturer to re-test its guardrail end treatment, according to DelDOT. Trinity agreed to perform the testing and has suspended production and sale of its product until the crash tests are complete.

Today, DelDOT Chief Engineer Robert McCleary issued a letter informing DelDOT personnel and firms working on the state's road system that the Trinity ET Plus guardrail end treatment will not be installed on any DelDOT guardrail until further notice.

DelDOT says this decision applies to all current and future construction statewide.

DelDOT says the ban will be in effect until comprehensive, independent safety testing is complete and officials determine that the product meets appropriate standards of performance.

DelDOT says the traffic division is reviewing crash data back to 2005 to determine if any accidents involved the poor performance of the guardrail head.

According to the department, DelDOT requires that contractors meet design standards when installing or repairing guardrails without specifying the use of specific products. Because of this, the agency says they are unaware of exactly how many Trinity ET-Plus guardrail heads may be in use.

Of the 6,248 guardrail heads of various types in use throughout Delaware, 2,101 are of the Type 1 guardrail head design, which could include the Trinity ET-Plus product. DelDOT officials say they are reviewing inventory to determine how many of these are the Trinity ET-Plus product and where they are located.

For additional information, visit www.DelDOT.gov.

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