Cable barriers: 5 months and waiting
SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - We are not going away.
That's the message from a group of local mothers, impacted by recent crossover accidents along area interstates and state highways. And they've now taken to Facebook, to garner more support, and to remind the Louisiana DOTD about their promise to install barriers here in northwest Louisiana.
"Until I see the first sing of work, I'm still going to push," says Kelly Hatfield, an advocate of median cable barriers.
Hatfield lost her daughter Megan in a cross over accident in the summer of 2012 on I-20 near Haughton. Since that time she's spoken out about the need for median barriers.
"I've got to do this for my daughter and other people," an emotional Hatfield added.
In a special ceremonial groundbreaking last summer, DOTD told Hatfield and lawmakers at the event that construction would begin on barriers across Bossier and Webster parishes in September. However 5 months later, and there's no sign of work beginning. A very rainy winter, and a hold up on the 80,000 cubic yards of dirt needed to do the work, has been the biggest culprit.
Texas has right at 1,000 miles of median barrier, both cable and concrete, protecting the opposing lanes of travel on many of its high speed interstates and state highways. But that statistic didn't register with Tammy Willson until the death of her daughter in a crossover accident this past December.
"It didn't hit home until I lost my daughter."
Her daughter, 28 year old Casey Colley, was killed on the 3132 Inner Loop - the Terry Bradshaw Passway - when the driver of a pick up truck crossed the center median and hit her car head on.
"Losing Casey is the worse thing that's happened in my life," adds Willson.
A Facebook page in honor of Megan, "Where are the Cable Barriers", and another in Casey's memory, "Casey Colley's Cause", both went online in December.
"We're not rolling over, " says Willson. "We lost my daughter and I'm not going to stop at that."
Last summer, The Department of Transportation and Development announced plans to install barriers along I-20 from the Texas state line to Mississippi. The first phase of the project calls for barriers in Bossier and Webster parish. Federal officials suggest any interstate or highway median that is 60 feet or less in width, would be a good candidate for cable barriers. In fact the Federal Highway Administration reports that states with median barriers have seen a decrease in cross-over, head on accidents by 90 percent.
However I-20 is the only highway in north Louisiana destined for barriers. The Terry Bradshaw Passway, where Casey was killed, is not on that list.
"Let it happen to one of these lawmakers," adds Willson, "let it happen to their daughter or their son and see how fast they get thrown up."
DOTD spokesperson Susan Stafford says all highways and interstates are evaluated for traffic volume and the number of crossover accidents. She says the Terry Bradshaw Passway has not had the same volume of accidents like I-20. However KSLA News 12 records show there were 4 documented cross over accidents in 2013 alone. Casey was killed in December and Jocelyn Wright was killed in August near Linwood.
Two other crossovers happened on January 15, 2013. Stuti Jawahar, a Byrd High School senior at the time, hit a patch of ice and slid across the Inner Loop median near Bert Kouns and struck a pole. She's still recovering from serious injuries. Another high schooler hit the same patch of ice, crossed the median, but struck the guardrail on the other side of the interstate. He walked away without injury.
"There's a darkness. My life has changed forever, " says Willson.
Worth noting, the brand new stretch of I-49 being built in north Caddo Parish does not include cable barriers. However the median there is much larger, 90 feet across, well in excess of federal guidelines for barriers.