Elk Grove-Caltrans says that the grassy median strip that separates opposinglanes of traffic on Interstate 5 south of Elk Grove is not inherently dangerous, despite two head on collisions in two weeks in which drivers crossed the median.
Caltrans says the median is roomier than most at 84 feet wide and was designed to be used in emergencies by motorists who accidentally drive off the paved surface.
There is a metal barrier a few miles from where a Sunday head-0n crash killed 4 people and injured 11 others. But Caltrans spokesperson Deanna Shoopman says the median is narrower there because there are three lanes going in each direction. She also said it would be more hazardous if a barrier were placed in the wider median.
“If we were to put a barrier there, motorists would have half the space to correct themselves and they can hit (the barrier) causing more damage,” said Shoopman.
Barriers work best when opposing lanes are close together. Cars that go off the road are more likely to make a glancing blow. A wider median with a barrier could allow a vehicle to make contact more head-on.
Shoopman says Caltrans monitors lane accidents closely and despite the recent wrecks the design of that section of I-5 hasn’t raised concerns.
Other highways have much narrower medians and some mlike parts of Highway 99 near Yuba City have none at all despite traffic that go at freeway speeds. In addition, the cause of the latest crash isn’t know. The driver’s health, drug or alcohol use, mechanical problems and roadway conditions are all being investigated.
Caltrans says they are open to making changes if the number and kind of accidents warrant it a review of highway design.