FHWA Says Changes Coming to Eligibility Process for Guardrails, Other Hardware

AASHTO Journal, 22 May 2015

The Federal Highway Administration has unveiled a series of new requirements it plans to implement for guardrails and other roadside safety hardware to qualify them for federal reimbursement, rules that will include full-scale crash testing using new test criteria for any proposed “significant” modification.

Acting Administrator Greg Nadeau signaled May 15 that the changes were coming, in remarks he made to the spring meeting in Cheyenne, Wyo., of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

On May 18, the FHWA sent an “open letter to all in the highway safety hardware and roadside design community,” explaining the changes to come, and followed up with a formal request for comments published May 19 in the Federal Register. Comments in response to that notice are due on or by June 18.

This is the latest in a series of actions the agency has taken in the wake of concerns raised about design changes made in the widely used Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrail systems. Those concerns led the agency to seek a series of crash tests earlier this year, which the Trinity products passed.

“Our goal is to make our roads, bridges and highways as safe as possible, in part by accelerating the move to the newer crash test criteria,” Nadeau said.

Under the planned changes, starting Jan. 1, 2016, the FHWA said: “Any proposed modification to a roadside safety device will require meeting full-scale crash test criteria outlined under AASHTO’s Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware, even if the device was previously tested and met National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 350 criteria.”

As the Register notice explains, the FHWA “provides technical assistance to states by issuing federal-aid eligibility letters for devices deemed crashworthy. The FHWA also makes determinations of continued eligibility for modified devices that have existing eligibility letters.”

But after Dec. 31, the agency plans to no longer issue letters of eligibility for modified NCHRP 350-tested guardrails and related hardware that do not involve full scale crash testing according to the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware that was published in 2009.

For any modifications a manufacturer makes to roadside safety hardware that has an existing eligibility letter, the FHWA in its letter to stakeholders said the manufacturer will have to notify the FHWA and request continued eligibility for reimbursement.

If those are significant modifications, the request must include crash test results “with accompanying documentation and videos.” Requests involving “non-significant modifications” will have to include “a statement from the crash test laboratory on the potential effect of the modification on the ability of the device to meet the relevant crash test criteria,” the agency said.

And to increase the “integrity and transparency” of the federal reimbursement process for installing the products, the FHWA said it “will now require disclosure of any financial interests between the manufacturer seeking an eligibility determination and both the testing facility and certain testing facility employees.”

The agency noted that it also “recently commissioned an independent end-to-end review of the entire roadside safety hardware process from development and testing through field performance.”

This entry was posted in Bridge Design/Const., Bridge Pres. Apps., New Technology, News, Pavement Design/Const., Pavement Pres. Apps., Treatments. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.