Cable barriers coming to medians

LAWRENCEVILLE - Steel cables will soon prevent drivers from crossing medians in rural stretches of Interstate 85 and 985, transportation officials said.

Projects are slated for later this year to add the safety measure on

I-85 from Ga. Highway 20 in Buford to the southern Franklin County line and along the entire 24-mile length of I-985, said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope.

In the past month, portions of I-85 near Ga. 20 have been closed three times by serious accidents, one of which was fatal.

But Pope said the road is safe and the median plan had been in the works long before them.

In fact, the DOT added similar cables earlier this year to the median of I-85 from Franklin County to the South Carolina state line. Pope said the 36 miles from Ga. 20 to the Franklin County line is expected to cost about $9 million, with the I-985 project is expected to take about $6 million.

Design work is under way to determine the depth of concrete supports and the exact location of the cables, which are about 3 inches in diameter. A barrier would be made by placing four cables about a foot apart to reach a height of about four feet. Poles would be located about every 10 feet, she said.

"With an interstate with 100,000 vehicles a day, three wrecks in a month (is) not bad," Pope said, adding that she had not seen police reports and was unaware of the causes of the accidents, which occurred June 20, June 27 and July 6.

"If there were DUIs, there isn't anything you can do about that," Pope said. "If they were speeding, there isn't much we can do."

The most serious of the accidents occurred June 20, when a truck crossed the median just north of Hamilton Mill Road and collided with a tractor-trailer on the other side. Thomas Edward Brown, 17, died in the fiery crash, which caused both sides of the interstate to be closed for several hours. The accident is still under investigation, according to police reports.

A week later, a man was extricated from a pickup truck that ran off the interstate and into a tree near the Ga. 20 exit. The driver, Michael Scott Herrin, 37, who sustained serious head and leg injuries, has been charged with failure to maintain lane and driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to a report.

On Friday, a portion of I-85 near Ga. 20 was closed for more than an hour for an accident believed to be caused when a tire blew on a van. Two people were ejected from the van, and four of the five occupants were transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, according to a report.

Pope said that repairs were made on the road after the June 20 crash, but the cost of the repairs has not been finalized. She said the DOT typically bills the person at fault for the accident for repair work. In a typical year, she said, the DOT's northern district, which includes Gwinnett, gets about $3 million in repair costs back by billing the responsible parties.