Gallatin Guardrail Improvements
This project starts August 14, 2019 and will be ending in November 2019. Construction hours are weekdays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As Montanans, we're fortunate to live in a state with beautiful scenery, wildlife, outdoor spaces, and roadways that connect us to these resources. Highway systems provide us the opportunity to visit family, explore the outdoors, and conduct business. No matter the nature of our travels, having safe roadways allow us to take full advantage of all that our state has to offer.
These same benefits can also be distractions. Think of a beautiful summer day driving to Yellowstone National Park. The Big Sky State is living up to its name. There's not a cloud in the sky and the landscape is breathtaking. A herd of deer is off grazing in the distance and a day of hiking lies ahead. Then, out of nowhere, a deer runs in front of your vehicle to catch up with the rest of its herd. As the driver, you swerve to avoid hitting this animal. You're now faced with two options. You go off of the side of the road, possibly down a hill or into the river if no guardrail is there to prevent you from doing so. Or, you strike the guardrail designed to keep you safe.
Montanans are used to seeing guardrail on the road and likely, have never paid attention to it. However, this safety device can be a matter of life or death. That's why Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) is committed to bringing the Vision Zero goal of zero deaths on Montana's roadways to a reality. As a critical component to this initiative, this summer, crews will be replacing old guardrail along the Gallatin Canyon corridor.
The Gallatin Canyon Guardrail project will address an existing safety shortfall in the Gallatin Valley. Over the years; guardrail in the area has prevented several vehicles from entering the river. However, this safety feature is very old and has outlived its original purpose. The Montana Department of Transportation will replace 29,000 linear feet of existing guardrail sections with new guardrail to meet modern standards by using stronger materials, raising the height of the guardrail, and by performing erosion stabilization efforts in 17 locations to ensure that if the guardrail is hit, that the ground supporting the rail can sustain the impact and keep vehicles on the roadway.
This 11.2-mile project will be on US Highway 191 within the Gallatin Canyon area. The project begins near the turnoff to Moose Creek Campground and ends near the Hellroaring Trailhead.
Work is being done in the summer of 2019 both to bring the guardrail up to the highest modern design standards and to address the crash trend currently experienced in this corridor. Montana Highway Patrol records show 64 reported crashes along this section of roadway between January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2013. During this time, there were 39 single vehicle road departure crashes, 26 of which resulted in a collision with a guardrail or other fixed object and 13 of which resulted in a rollover. It's important to note that during this time, there were eight injury crashes, resulting in 10 total injuries. The remaining 56 crashes resulted in property damage only.
Guardrails Save Lives
In order to complete these much-needed safety improvements, drivers will experience delays of up to 15 minutes in the project area during construction. Traffic will be maintained throughout construction using single-lane closures for the guardrail installation.
The Montana Department of Transportation fully recognizes that the Gallatin Canyon is a major commuter route between the communities in the Gallatin Valley and Big Sky. Lane closures during peak travel times may result in significant travel delays. However, every effort will be made to limit work zone lengths and to limit lane closures to off-peak hours to reduce inconveniences.
Guardrail make our roadways safer and lessen the severity of crashes. This can happen in a few different ways. Guardrails operate to slow a vehicle down or to a complete stop upon impact. They can also deflect (redirect) a vehicle back to the roadway. The size of the vehicle, and the speed at which it's traveling when connecting with the guardrail, influence how well the guardrail can function.
Over time, drivers who make contact with the guardrail loosen the ground supporting the structures. Vehicle impacts and weather conditions lessen the guardrail system's effectiveness and it must be replaced.
How Guardrail Works
Guardrails function as a system. This includes the guardrail itself, the posts, the ground that the posts are driven into, the connection of the guardrail to the posts, the end of the guardrail (called the "terminal section"), and the anchoring system at the end of the terminal.
When you look at a guardrail, you'll notice there aren't continual sections. Although guardrails do run for extended lengths, they do not span vast sections of roadway. The starting and end points are very important to providing a safe system for drivers. Essentially, there are two main components of the guardrail; the face and the end terminal.
The guardrail face is the length of the guardrail that extends alongside the road. Its function is to redirect the vehicle back to the roadway upon impact.
The end terminal is the starting point of the guardrail. This is the section that has the reflective black and yellow striped pattern on the edges. When a driver hits the end terminal head-on, the energy of the impact pulses through the guardrail and redirects the guide rail away from the vehicle until the vehicle's energy has slowed enough that they are brought to a stop. The terminal allows the guardrail to absorb heavy impacts along its span, or length. This allows the entire barrier to protect drivers from serious injuries and is why you may see the end of a guardrail section seemingly in a crumpled pile. It did its job and hopefully saved a life.
Regardless of the point of impact, guardrails are designed to keep drivers on the road. If damage occurs, it is often to the vehicle and not to the driver. The faster a vehicle is going when it strikes the guardrail, the more damage might occur because there is more energy upon impact.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2013, 32,719 fatalities occurred across our nation's roadways for all types of vehicles. Fatalities involving passenger cars and light trucks striking a guardrail face and end represent 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, of total highway fatalities. Guardrails save lives.