Do these barriers make bridges more dangerous?

Posted: 6:48 PM, May 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-23 19:49:39-04
Do these barriers make bridges more dangerous?

Some barriers on several Tri-State bridges may not be providing as much protection to drivers as originally thought.

Originally designed in the 1950s, the so-called “Jersey barrier” is a common means of separating lanes of traffic.

The design has also been involved in a number of crashes around the Tri-State, some even propelling vehicles off bridges. In March, when a vehicle was propelled off the Combs-Hehl Bridge connecting Cincinnati’s east side with Northern Kentucky via Interstate 275, it was a Jersey barrier off which that car ramped over the bridge’s edge, killing 32-year-old Martin Bouma.


Neil Gilreath, a former Covington police officer who now owns his own crash investigation and reconstruction company, told WCPO Jersey barriers have begun to pose problems because the design hasn’t kept up with the changing types of vehicles now common on roadways.

“You’re looking at about a three-inch curve, and then you’re looking at a transition, which is sloped,” Gilreath said. “Now we’re talking about new technology. We’re talking about crumple zones and airbag deployment that didn’t exist back in the 50s.”

Crash report data from both Ohio and Northern Kentucky indicate the Combs-Hehl Bridge’s newer design has meant fewer collisions, and Gilreath said incidents like that which killed Bouma are rare.

“It’s a perfect storm that has to come together,” he said. “The vehicle has to hit it at the right speed, at the right angle, and then what happens is, because of the airbag deployment, because of the crumple zones, they lose the ability to steer, to control the car.

“So once they hit it, it’s really up to the barrier as to what happens,” he said.