New actions taken by MassDOT over guardrail concerns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is now taking action on potentially dangerous guardrails the Target 12 Investigators first reported on in May. The guardrails in question are the subject of dozens of pending lawsuits blaming them for numerous deaths.

In May, Target 12 revealed potential safety concerns involving a guardrail system covering thousands of miles of roads nationwide, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts DOT has taken initial steps to stop the use of the ET-Plus end terminals on its state roads while the agency conducts additional research.

Trinity Industries made a small design change years ago to the guardrails and that change, according to some safety experts, is having a major effect on how they perform. Now, multiple lawsuits claim the design change causes the guardrail to pierce the car and its passengers instead of rolling away from the impact, as it’s supposed to do.

Trinity Industries has denied any wrongdoing in those pending lawsuits.

In a statement, the Mass. DOT said “in the near term, MassDOT will be reviewing the findings of the report and if necessary, will evaluate possible measures to repair or replace these end terminals already in use.”

The Target 12 Investigators reached out to Trinity Industries in May, and the company said the ET-Plus systems were “successfully crash-tested in 2005 and were proven to perform as a crash-worthy product by the Federal Highway Administration.”

The Rhode Island DOT told us in May it does not have any data to suggest the ET-Plus end treatment is posing a safety hazard to the motoring public.

On Thursday Target 12 reached out to RIDOT, and it said it is aware of the actions taken by MassDOT, but it is standing by its position that the ET-Plus remains an approved product.

Trinity Industries has not returned our call regarding the new developments.

Statement from the Missouri Department of Transportation:

Our internal observations, as well as our review of available information, indicates to us that ET-Plus guardrail end treatment is not performing as intended and could pose the risk of malfunctioning. Therefore, we are taking proactive steps to correct the situation. We are immediately stopping the further use of this product on Missouri’s highway system by taking it off of our approved products list, removing it from projects currently under construction and prohibiting its use on any future projects.

Statement from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation:

We are aware of the actions taken by Missouri and stand by our position that the ET-Plus remains an approved product per the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). We continually monitor these end treatments in Rhode Island, as we do all devices and equipment along our roadways, and do not have any data to suggest that they are posing a safety hazard to the motoring public. We will continue to confer with FHWA, AASHTO, and other partners to gauge if further action is warranted.

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