*This is the 2nd of two parts of a KSLA News 12 Special Report - Where are all the cable barriers?
12 billion dollars. That's the amount of the backlog of highway and bridge projects in the State of Louisiana. And, according to Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Adley of Benton, it's the main reason why we have very few cable barriers lining our interstates and state highways.
"Out of the 40 to 60 million dollars of highway safety funds, 10 percent goes to cable barriers," Adley says. The senator says he believes the barriers do save lives, but he does not know where the money would come from when the state is billions of dollars behind already.
Texas has installed close to 1,000 miles of cable barrier. And Oklahoma has installed cable barriers in the medians of half of their state's interstates. In fact, Oklahoma uses a more expensive 4-cable barrier system on it's interstates and turnpikes.
"This is a safety feature and we feel very comfortable to spend a little bit more money to get that added value," says Oklahoma's Department of Transportation spokesperson Terri Angier.
The ultimate added value is lives saved. Research from the Texas Transportation Institute and repeated highway studies have shown fatality rates drop to zero or near zero on many stretches of interstate after cable median barriers are installed.
Kelly Hatfield's daughter, Megan, died in a cross over accident on Interstate 20 near Haughton in July.
"If we can prevent that from happening to another family, it's worth it," shared Hatfield as she fought back tears.
At the site of Megan's accident, the median is only 59 feet, 7 inches between the east and west bound lanes. The medians where cable barriers has been installed near New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and all across Texas, is anywhere from 60- to 65-feet wide.
Adley is hopeful KSLA News 12's special reports on the need for cable barriers will eventually make a difference.
"People like yourself doing a responsible thing, you've brought it to the forefront. My experience in politics is, if you push it to the front and get everyone's attention, that's when things begin to happen," Adley added.
Lawmakers would have to designate that more funds be directed to cable barriers for drivers in northwest Louisiana to see cable barriers anytime soon. The 2013 legislative session reconvenes in March.
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