OLYMPIA… After years of pleading with the Washington State Department of Transportation to junk the ineffective cable barriers along Interstate-5 near Marysville, Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, says she is relieved to learn the state has finally agreed with experts and has begun to replace the cable with concrete barriers.
Eight people died in cross-over crashes in a 10-mile stretch near Marysville between 2000 and 2007. The latest in a string of related lawsuits was settled when the state agreed to pay $1.1 million to Aubrey Knapp, 27, severely injured in a cross-over crash in 2005.
“As a longtime opponent of cable barriers, I am grateful that WDOT has essentially been forced to replace those useless cables with concrete barriers,” Stevens said. “Along with many others and a host of experts, I pleaded with the DOT to stop its stubborn insistence on continuing to install this faulty system, despite the deaths and serious injuries that resulted. It’s tragic that the delay took such a heavy toll.”
Knapp, who suffered multiple broken bones in her right leg and foot, has had six surgeries and will require additional surgeries and a lifetime of treatment. She has long-term nerve damage that causes her ongoing pain. She worked for a chiropractor at the time of the accident and had to be retrained in another profession that didn’t require standing. Three similar lawsuits cost the state a total of $3.4 million.
A 2005 investigation showed that the cable barriers failed 20 percent of the time to stop cars crossing the median along a 3-mile stretch of the freeway, so the state installed a second set of cable barriers in 2006. A year later, after another death, an independent study of the barriers concluded that the cable barriers were the wrong fix for the Marysville vicinity and recommended concrete barriers. The concrete barriers are scheduled to be in place by the end of this year at a cost of $18.9 million.
“It’s a sad commentary that people had to lose their lives and well-being before common sense was forced upon the department,” Stevens said. “It took public meetings with documentary video, and additional loss of life resulting in expensive lawsuits, to show the fallacy of cable barriers in preventing crossover accidents. I am grateful that the truth has finally won the debate.”