It is easy to get information on the effectiveness of high-tension cables barriers especially from those organizations who either sell them or use them on their highway systems. But what about information that demonstrates their in-service performance and whether the barriers are being repaired in a timely fashion? Silence.
Equally, it is possible to obtain information about the number of collisions occurring on Ontario’s Highway 401 if one has an infinite amount of timee to follow collision reporting provided across the whole Province of Ontario on its 511 system. But monitoring what is happening on specific problem areas such as the infamous “Carnage Alley” between London and Tilbury is virtually impossible because only the most minimal information is provided to the public.
A recent travel through Carnage Alley by Gorski Consulting in early April, 2022, revealed several locations where the cable barrier was damaged from unknown collisions, as shown in the photos below.
What kind of collisions resulted in this damage is unknown. And how long the damaged barriers have remained damaged is unknown.
A long-time proponent of concrete barrier installation on Highway 401 in her Chatham, Ontario area, Alysson Storey, recently noted in a response on Twitter that “I have found it much more difficult to track collisions in Carnage Alley the last 2-3 years. But even keeping a basic running list is better than nothing.”
It is not clear why this greater difficulty has come about. Are police and official news agencies being helpful in providing information about these collisions? How would anyone know? Are the newly installed cable barriers performing as expected? How would the public know when there is no information about the issue?
What we can say from our own observation is that certain collision repairs along Highway 401 are not being made in a timely fashion. For example, on December 3, 2021 we observed the damage to an ET-Plus guardrail terminal on the north side of the westbound lanes of Highway 401 just west of Highbury Ave in London, as shown in the photo below.
This terminal was not repaired until the afternoon of May 2, 2022, as shown in our photo below.
This delay of five months means that, anyone who might strike the terminal would be exposed to an unknown level of performance, most probably a degraded level of performance. But who would know of this delay unless someone was actually monitoring it?
So what about those damaged sections of cable barrier on Highway 401 in Carnage Alley? How long have they remained damaged after they were struck? In Alysson Storey’s experience the repairs should be performed much sooner (and she is right):
“I know in certain states there is a specific time frame (eg 2 weeks) that damaged cables must be repaired by. I don’t know if ON has the same standards, although I sincerely hope so. Once a cable is damaged, the entire segment is useless. So we’re back to square one.”
What may happen when a vehicle strikes a damaged cable barrier is unpredictable. It depends on the characteristics of the vehicle, its speed, the angle of approach, and so on. But clearly we should not be using the public as guinea pigs in such experiments.