Home Warner, Kaine urge GAO to investigate guardrail safety

Warner, Kaine urge GAO to investigate guardrail safety


congressToday, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in writing to the head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office to request a formal investigation into the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) process for evaluating the safety of roadside hardware, including guardrails that have been implicated in more than a dozen serious accidents – some fatal – nationwide, including in Virginia.

“The developments over the past several months raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the current framework for evaluating the reliability and integrity of roadside hardware products, including guardrail end terminals,” the Senators wrote.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is currently in the process of removing the FHWA-approved ET-Plus guardrails, manufactured by Texas-based Trinity Industries, because of a suspected defect that can potentially lead the guardrails to jam upon collision and pierce vehicles – essentially turning guardrails intended to cushion the impact of collision into spears that can injure and even kill drivers and passengers. The Commonwealth has also filed suit against Trinity, alleging that the company violated the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

More than two dozen states have also banned additional installation of the allegedly defective guardrails.

In a joint letter, the Senators noted the questionable safety of roadside products that have been approved by the FHWA, which disburses about $40 billion annually to states for projects to build, improve, and maintain highways and bridges nationwide.

“FHWA, as the guardian of federal taxpayer dollars, has a unique and vital role and responsibility in ensuring that roadside hardware has been properly vetted for safety purposes and is eligible for reimbursement with federal funds,” the Senators noted.

Controversial testing of FHWA-approved ET-Plus guardrail end terminals recently took place in Texas and avideo of the eighth and final test has raised considerable concern by members of Congress and their constituents.



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