HANOVER - Over the next month, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration is expected to complete the replacement of non-conforming or 'Frankensteined' guardrails on state-maintained roadways.
A 'Frankensteined' guardrail has become an industry term used to describe a modification made to a guardrail with parts from different manufacturers.
According to the SHA, this most commonly happened when the end treatment of a guardrail was struck and required replacement.
Contractors installed readily available parts and, in some instances, the material was not fully compatible with the existing barrier, the department explained.
"The systems are normally proprietary systems and they're manufactured with very specific instructions and parts in mind in order to ensure it works properly," said Deputy Administrator Teri Soos.
At the end of last month, staff with the SHA completed a statewide inventory to document where replacements were necessary on guardrail end treatments.
Data obtained by WJZ on Sept. 21 shows 109 non-conforming end treatments had been discovered by the SHA, which is about 0.66 percent of the total system.
At the time, 79 had already been replaced.
"They are tested by accredited test labs," Soos said. "We don't know what would happen if you use parts from different manufacturers within the system. However, it's not tested. Therefore, we are proactively replacing them to ensure that we have the safest system we can on our roadways."
The administration reports that it is not aware of any injuries or deaths caused by non-conforming guardrails along state-maintained roadways but is not notified of all collisions with guardrails.
When notified of a crash with a guardrail, however, the SHA stated that staff gathers information about infrastructure-related data, inspects the area and starts the process of restoring the location to its pre-crash configuration.
In concert with the replacement process, the SHA stated it's working on developing a 'comprehensive training' plan for inspectors; a group of maintenance staff that's been consolidated.
The SHA anticipates the completion of the remaining replacements by Nov. 1, 2023.
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