Maryland Ahead of Schedule Replacing Controversial Guardrails

The state of Maryland says it is months ahead of schedule in its efforts to remove a controversial guardrail from its roads.

A number of lawsuits claim the X-LITE end terminal is defective. Several people have died and others have been seriously injured after the guardrail speared their vehicles.

In July 2018, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (SHA) announced it would replace all 990 X-LITE end terminals on state-maintained roads.

SHA Administrator Greg Slater said the decision was an “engineering-based” one, and he is not aware of any accidents in Maryland where an X-LITE did not function properly. “We’re going to start with high-speed roadways and then walk our way back, but our estimates are upwards of a year or two, maybe three years,” Slater said at the time.

Earlier this month, SHA said there were only 368 X-LITEs remaining on its roads, and those would be replaced by the end of 2020.

That deadline has now been moved up to February 2020. X-LITEs on roads with speed limits of 55mph or more will be removed by the end of 2019.

SHA statement:

"The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is working toward removal of X-Lite end treatments from all MDOT SHA roads by the end of February 2020. With initial focus on higher speed roadways and areas with the highest concentration of equipment needing replacement, MDOT SHA is on schedule to replace X-Lite end treatments on high-speed roads by the end of this calendar year."

Lindsay Transportation Solutions, the maker of the X-LITE, insists its product is safe.

Lindsay Transportation Solutions statement:

“Beginning July 1, 2018, new crash-testing standards for road safety equipment, including guardrail end terminals, started going into effect nationwide and states continue to transition to the new MASH standard as budgets and other factors permit. We respect the efforts of the Maryland Highway Administration in moving toward the new MASH standard and replacing all products from all guardrail end terminal manufacturers that have not been tested to this new standard.”

The state of Virginia is also replacing X-LITEs as part of a larger effort to upgrade guardrails to ones that meet newer crash test standards. Two years ago, there were 1,000 X-LITEs on roads maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. As of today, the state has removed 500 from roads with a speed limit of 55mph or more. The remaining 107 on high-speed roadways will be replaced by the end of the year.

VDOT statement:

"Through our Strategic Guardrail Management Program, VDOT has active contracts replacing non-compliant terminals – not just the X-Lite terminal – on state maintained roads. VDOT identified non-compliant terminals for replacement based on risk factors such as crash, traffic volume, speed and roadway configuration. Since the program’s implementation in December 2016, VDOT has replaced 500 X-Lite terminals on roadways with speeds of 55 mph or higher. We are on track to replace the remaining 107 X-Lite terminals on roadways with speeds of 55 mph or higher by the end of 2019. In addition to this replacement program, we have and will continue to replace damaged terminals on any state-maintained roads with VDOT approved products. VDOT regularly reviews available data and information as part of its ongoing Guardrail Management Program and makes updates in its plan as warranted."

As of February 2018, West Virginia had about 983 X-LITEs on its roads. The state sent News4 the following statement:

"The X-LITE is no longer an approved product as it does not meet current crash testing requirements (MASH) for new devices. Through construction projects and routine maintenance a good number of these end treatments have been replaced. We do not have an updated inventory at this time so we are unable to quantify this reduction in X-LITE end treatments on the system."

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