State officials are planning an evaluation of potentially faulty guardrail heads on Kentucky roads and highways.
Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock told lawmakers during a committee meeting last week that he believes hundreds of ETPlus guardrail component are in use, but an exact number isn’t yet known. The state recently banned the product, made by Trinity Highway Products of Dallas, WDRB-TV in Louisville reported.
Federal officials have ordered a new round of tests into the guardrail heads, while other states like Virginia are planning to remove the rails.
“Once those tests results are in, we will make an appropriate decision about the future use or removal of the ET-Plus guardrail end treatment system,” Hancock said at a meeting of the General Assembly’s interim joint committee on transportation Thursday.
“If there is real evidence or a directive from (the Federal Highway Administration) that says the ET-Plus needs to be replaced, make no mistake — we will not shy away from that directive and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action.”
Critics say that when vehicles strike the guardrail ends, the guardrails don’t crumple as they should, but instead become spears that impale cars and their occupants.
Trinity has said that since it introduced the ET system in 2000, it has met all federal testing standards.
If Kentucky ultimately replaces the guardrail heads, Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said Hancock should try to recover all costs associated with installing new components.
Hancock told the news station it’s too early to speculate on replacement costs.
“ I do know that most states presented with that same situation would be in the same spot,” Hancock said. “I guess the question is, can the company stand up under that kind of financial pressure?”
Trinity Industries Inc. stopped shipments of its ETPlus guardrails after a Texas jury ordered it to pay at least $175 million for misleading regulators. A whistleblower says the company changed the guardrails’ design but didn’t inform regulators for several years.