Barrier-connecting prototype intended to increase work zone safety

Lincoln, NE — In an effort to help keep road construction workers and drivers safe, researchers at the University of Nebraska have developed prototype hardware that spans gaps between protective roadway barriers.

These barriers — usually precast, portable segments of concrete — are commonly used to protect work-zone employees and shield drivers from hazards in construction areas. However, any gap between these barriers can compromise their safety.

The researchers, from the university’s Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, narrowed seven of their designs to two before conducting computer simulations, and then selected one for high-speed crash testing. That prototype used a nested thrie-beam guardrail system, which is a readily available component.

Testing involved a 5,000-pound pickup truck traveling at 62 mph and aimed at the prototype. Results of two crash tests showed the gap-covering hardware helped maintain the barrier’s structural integrity, safely redirect the vehicle after impact and protect a hypothetical driver.

 

Using post-test analyses, the researchers drafted recommendations on how to calibrate the positioning and installation of the hardware. They note that the hardware meets federal safety guidelines and can be applied to gaps between barriers ranging from 6 inches to 12.5 feet.

Use of the hardware on other, differently shaped barriers will require further analysis and testing, the researchers note. Details of their study were published online in Transportation Research Record, the journal of the Transportation Research Board.

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