The bridge’s safety improvements save lives.
The Bridge’s safety improvements
One of the major causes of accidents on the bridge occurs when a vehicle is stalled on the roadway. This can cause rear end collisions that may result in damage to vehicles and injuries to the individuals in the vehicles.
Initially the bridge had crossovers 4 miles apart which were the only emergency areas for drivers to pull into. Being 84 feet square is difficult to get in and out of safely.
Because of this danger it was critical to find new safety measures to improve the bridge. The most cost-effective solution was to build safety bays (also known as segmented shoulders) in the right lanes. There are 6 northbound and 6 southbound segmented shoulders each measuring 600 to 1,000 feet long. These safety improvements have tripled the emergency stopping area and reduced rear end crashes by 30%.
Another major safety improvement is the installation of new railing along the southbound span. The original concrete rail is 25 inches above the roadway and the new steel is an additional 21 inches. Combined, the rail is now 46 inches above the roadway.
The original concrete barrier rails were only 25 inches high. They were designed for low center of gravity vehicles that were the norm 70 years ago. These vehicles did not have a tendency to roll over if they hit the railing. By the mid to late 1990s there were more high center of gravity vehicles such as personal trucks and SUVs that are actually designed to climb over a low curb. With the popular use of these types of vehicles there was an increase in crashes, vehicles turning over, and some flipping into the lake. Initial results since the new railing was installed proved that there was a reduction in the number of rollovers by 50% and there were no over boards.