Friday, Sep 19, 2014
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Suncoast Parkway through Hernando County to get median barriers

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Published:   |   Updated: October 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

BROOKSVILLE - Motorists have probably noticed strips of cement going up in the medians along certain stretches of the Suncoast Parkway.

Pretty soon, work crews will be attaching posts to those cement strips and on those posts will be steel wires. By the fall of 2014, these high-tension wires, or barriers, will be in place to prevent motorists from going off the road and having a head-on collision with a vehicle on the other side of the Suncoast Parkway.

Christa Deason, public information officer with Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, said if a car hits those barriers, it will either be redirected back on to the grass or come to a stop.

Law enforcement officers nationwide support the barriers as a means to cut down deadly crashes.

"A head-on collision at highway speeds is one of the worst accidents that can occur," Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in an email. "Keeping oncoming expressway traffic on their side of the roadway, even if they lose control, is an obvious life saver, especially as utilization of the Suncoast Parkway increases over the next several years."

The overall median crossover crash rate decreased by 78.8 percent after the installation of cable median barriers, according to Florida Department of Transportation statistics.

Installing the barriers is part of a $20 million Suncoast Parkway project in Hernando County, which includes resurfacing from County Line Road to U.S. 98, signs and pavement markings.

The DOT is also making road and drainage enhancements that include raising the roadway northbound and southbound at the U.S. 98 ramps and expanding the pond on the west side of the road. That area became flooded during Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

The entire project will be completed in phases in the fall and late fall of 2014.

Deason said all of the roads in the turnpike system are getting safety upgrades, including the median barriers. Most of the barriers are already in place in Pasco County's portion of the parkway, she said.

Deason said the barriers have four stands of cable and, depending on trajectory, can either redirect the vehicle back into the proper lane or cause it to get hung up there and stop.

Sgt. Steve Gaskins with the Florida Highway Patrol said the Suncoast Parkway is a limited access, high speed road with medians that are narrow and unobstructed by trees.

If a vehicle going 70 mph was to lose control and cross the median and collide head-on with a vehicle in the opposite lane, the impact could be as high as 140 mph, he said.

Whether it's a guard rail, concrete barrier or cable barrier, there needs to be something to halt the progression of a vehicle that goes over the median, he said.

"Most of the interstates being constructed will see some kind of median barrier come into play," Gaskins said.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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