Grill officials about safety of I-5 cable barriers

MARYSVILLE – It may be a familiar scene – state officials being hammered with questions about the safety of cable barriers along a deadly 10-mile stretch of I-5 near Marysville.

State officials are expected to explain their latest plan to prevent crossover crashes along the freeway at a community meeting Friday in Marysville.

State officials will recommend installing a concrete barrier designed to stop vehicles while leaving one of two strands of cable barrier in place, said Doug MacDonald, secretary of the state Department of Transportation.

“The (concrete) barrier will be backup for the cable median barrier,” MacDonald said. “We want to set up the best system of protection.”

A total of eight people have died in crossover crashes along the Marysville stretch of I-5 since 2000. In each case, the cable barriers failed to stop vehicles.

The state paid out $2 million to the parents of a Bothell teen who was killed in an across-the-median crash. The state faces additional multimillion-dollar lawsuits from other families.

The state’s new plan could cost up to $28 million and could require the state to widen the freeway, said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.

The state plans on Monday to release the results of an out-of-state expert’s analysis of cable barriers. Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered the review in February after an Everett man was killed in a crossover crash.

Cliff Warren died shortly after the state installed a second strand of cable barriers in Marysville. The second strand was supposed to stop vehicles from slipping under the cables.

A 2005 analysis by The Herald showed that along a three-mile stretch on I-5 in Marysville, the barriers failed to stop cars in the median 20 percent of the time.

MacDonald said the study shows that cable barriers work well in most places the state has installed them.

He also said he thinks the anomaly in Marysville may be the result of numerous factors, including high traffic volumes, speeding and a large number of onramps and offramps.

The design and placement of the cable barriers are not the problem, he said.

“It’s a convergence zone. There’s an increased risk people will engage the barrier,” MacDonald said, adding that a more detailed explanation will be available in the report and follow-up meeting.

Haugen, the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said she understands that people are eager to see what the report says and to learn more about possible solutions.

“People feel very passionate about this issue,” she said. “We can’t make those families who lost someone whole again, but we can preserve other families from such tragedies.”

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

Meeting Friday

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, has scheduled a meeting to discuss a report on cable barriers in the Marysville area, expected to be released by the state Department of Transportation next week.

The meeting is set for 1 p.m. Friday at the Cedarcrest Middle School cafeteria, 6400 88th St. NE, Marysville.

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