Louisiana Interstate Projects Provide Safety Buffer

July 20, 2013

Two Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development projects along Interstate 20 in northern Louisiana are designed with one purpose: To save lives.

Marshall Hill, DOTD’s Monroe District administrator, tells The News-Star a six-month, $1.8-million project to clear trees from the shoulders and from the median in Ouachita and Richland parishes has been underway for about a month.

Hill said when the first project is complete, motorists will have a 60-foot clearing from the shoulders to the first tree lines. In some areas the trees have encroached to as close as 15 to 20 feet of the shoulders.

“What you want is room to recover and get back on the roadway,” Hill said. “Trees don’t move when you hit them, so the more area you have to recover control of your vehicle, the better.”

In the past, Hill said, a 30-foot recovery zone was considered adequate, but even that buffer shrank as the trees grew larger.

Hill said the contractor is selling the marketable lumber and mulching the tops of the trees and smaller vegetation.

He also said the clearing will prevent fallen trees or limbs from blocking the interstate during high winds.

“When those trees or big limbs block the interstate, it can cause a catastrophe when someone is driving 70 mph,” he said.

DODT officials also said clearing the rights of way and the median also will improve sight lines for drivers.

Next up, Hill said, will be the installation of cable barriers in the median. That $5 million project is already underway in Bossier and Webster parishes, and Hill expects it to continue into northeastern Louisiana as soon as next year.

Both projects are federally funded, though they are administered by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

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