FRENCHTOWN – Another piece of the busy highway construction season is getting underway, this time on I-90 west of Missoula, where crews will be installing “cable railing” to try and cut the number of “cross over” freeway crashes.
I-90 from the Wye west through Frenchtown has been especially susceptible to “cross over” crashes over the years. The problem is frequently tied to icy roads, but oftentimes it’s a case of inattentive or sleepy drivers that cross the median at speed, causing head-on crashes in the opposite lanes. And the problem is made worse by the hills and curves in the west end of the Missoula Valley.
Starting this week, contractors will be installing “cable railings”, which will run down the median with the purpose of “catching” cars that run off the road in either direction, before they cross into opposing traffic. The railings have become standard in several surrounding states in the past few years, especially on freeways in Washington. But this is only the second time they’ve been installed in Montana, and the first installation in Western Montana.
Montana Department of Transportation is hopeful they can cut the incidence of “cross over” crashes, although the railings aren’t a guarantee all vehicles will be stopped, especially larger trucks.
“If you have maybe a larger vehicle that has a lot of momentum at the wrong place, will that keep them from crossing over? Hard to say. It may slow them down enough to make a difference," said MDT District Engineer Ed Toavs. "So it will be interesting to see. I’m just curious to see how that’s going to perform for us. Because if it does work well like we think it will, there’s probably some other sections on I-90 that we’ll consider installing it.”
During the installation over the next few weeks, drivers should expect alternating lane closures and reduced speeds down to 35-miles per hour in the work zone.